UKZN Virtual Graduation

Message from the Vice-Chancellor

Dear Graduands

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2020 and welcome to all of you to this Virtual Spring Graduation Ceremony.

Graduation is always a time of heightened emotions – elation, the pleasures of achievement, the pride you share with your fellow graduates and your families and  the anticipation of a new phase of your life about to begin. This is a deeply meaningful juncture in your lives and for all of your nearest and dearest, your friends, teachers and everyone else who has had the privilege of nurturing and supporting you.

It is my first hope that all of these feelings will find expression in you today, even under these historically unprecedented and constrained conditions.

The rapidly changing circumstances of the last seven months have required some of the most difficult decisions university leaders across the world have ever faced, and have brought about difficult challenges and painful choices. I greatly regret that we are unable to host you and approximately 30 000 guests – among those your family and friends – together in a celebratory gathering..

But the cause for celebration is unchanged. There will be time enough for all of us to face the difficulties and dislocations brought about by the global pandemic. For now, as in every other Graduation Ceremony, let us concentrate on you – and let us start with your achievement.  Your degree represents not only your mastery of body of knowledge; it is also a testament to your character, to your ambition, resilience and stamina, and to your determination.

And there is more to achieving a degree than the degree itself. It is also the culmination of a period in your life when you have grown in so many other ways – by expanding your horizons, coming to a new appreciation of community and fellow-feeling, by a sense of common purpose and not least by gains in your confidence and abilities. And you would have made the kinds of friendships that last a lifetime – an invaluable gift.

Of course, it is easy to say that life is always uncertain, in every direction; and at least part of this and every University’s mission has always been  to prepare its graduates with the knowledge, the skills and the traits of character to enable you to forge a path for yourself and for your community, through both your newly-acquired expertise and by giving expression to your values, however trying the circumstances.

I wish I could say these things to you in person but the uncertainties of life and the world have suddenly taken shape as a looming threat which none of us can ignore. So I am now addressing you not on the threshold of your entry into the wider world, but even as you are pondering how best to plan the next phase of your life. Your reserves of resilience and stamina, your capacity for careful thought and patience, and your moral bearings are already being tested, in advance of anything  I would have hoped for you even a in few short months ago.

But I have confidence that you are well equipped to face a more challenging set of circumstances than my contemporaries and I have  ever had to deal with. Yet some things remain constant: that generosity of spirit is the inexhaustible wellspring of much that is beautiful in human life; that one learns how to lead by learning how to serve; and that the close bonds of human love and affection are the foundation for all that will truly matter in your life – achieving a degree included.  (So congratulations to your families, too!)

The University fully understands that you need your academic credentials to proceed with your future plans. We have sent you details of how you will receive your graduation certificate and your graduation booklet. We are committed to holding an in-person ceremony when it is safe to do so and welcoming all of our 2020 graduates and their families back to our campus so that we can celebrate their numerous accomplishments together.

Thank you again for standing alongside us as we take steps to respond to this unprecedented and extraordinary situation. As a University, we will also strengthen our efforts to ensure that we continue to focus on the key issues facing humanity – to meet our obligations to the wider society beyond education and research.

Throughout the world, countless individuals and communities are absorbing the practical meanings of what it means to be so intricately inter-connected; that when we face our fears, we can transform them through compassion; and that we emerge from the current crisis still  firmly committed to generosity and kindness – and a new way of being or doing things.

I urge you to take care and stay safe until we meet again.

Once again, please accept my warmest congratulations.

I wish you every success.

Professor Nana Poku
Vice-Chancellor and Principal