Graduation is ceremonial, exemplary output the crux
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A COUPLE of years ago, an outcry was justifiably raised over the university graduation attire (featuring mainly a fancifully designed flowing gown and a hat) being grossly downgraded to the level of the recipients being nursery school “graduates”.

It was triggered by what some considered to be a comical scenario of having, on the one hand, a child who is a little more than a baby, being saluted for, among other “achievements”, mastery of the alphabet. Which is not, for one moment, to imply that the alphabet is insignificant; on the contrary, it is one of the basic foundations of the learning process.

On the other is a full grown adult being honoured for academic success after three or so solid years of toil. Torture may be the more emphatic expression. It involves being literally buried in books, up to midnight at times, highly demanding concentration in group discussions, coping with deadlines for submission of written assignments, and nervousness whenever examinations approach.

Some have the misfortune of sitting supplementary exams, which is essentially normal, but to which a stigma and attendant embarrassment are attached; partly captured by the cynical expression “to sup”.

For married students, the challenges of fending for immediate and extended families effectively, and studying, is pretty taxing. I live it to your conjecture to figure out how a man or woman (a tougher test if it is you) whose marriage is the equivalent of a vessel navigating through a turbulent sea, has to simultaneously grapple with exams!

Hence the outcry, some speculating that a ‘big baby’ , resplendent in a colourful graduation regalia, wouldn’t see much need for struggling to wear a more-or-less similar one when he or she “graduates once more” when they are taller and much older, some 17 or so later!

The debate on the issue fizzled out, the general feeling being that, to borrow Shakespearean phraseology, it was ‘much ado about nothing’. Upon reflection, though, a few things should be pondered. Beyond graduation regalia, the gap between ‘kindergarten graduates’ and university-level ones has to be truly wide.

Children currently struggling (and playfulness chipped into the bargain) to memorise the alphabet, cram the arithmetical table, and link the pictures of animals and fruits with specific names, should be perceived as adults-inwaiting.

Ideally, they should subsequently become graduates and instrumental drivers of social service delivery and economic development. However, the men and women bearing the reverential term ‘wasomi’, must strive to become ‘beyond-graduation ceremony achievers’.

They may discharge their respective duties well, and be paid salaries in conformity with specific employer-employee contracts. That’s all very well; but, ideally, they should move beyond the routine: working– even hard and judiciously–and get paid handsome salaries at the end of specific months.

For that is not widely different from being a robot in, say, a vehicle assembly plant, which picks mechanical parts from Point A and fixes them onto Point B. Graduates should cultivate a creative-innovative culture, by being literally harassed by the itch for generating fresh ideas for bolstering existing ones.

Once applied, these would improve whatever processes are in place, for faster and better output or results. Here-in fit sentiments expressed in the not-so-distant past, by Mr Benjamin Mkapa, a retired president, in his capacity as Chancellor of the University of Dodoma (UDOM).

Speaking at its convocation, which coincided with UDOM’s 10th anniversary, he stressed that universities should incisively research into problems besetting the country in the political, economic and social fields, and propose solutions for them.

Similar sentiments constituted the common thread that run through speeches delivered by speaker after speaker at some of the subsequent university graduation ceremonies.

The graduates were reminded that graduation ceremonies were merely symbolic and not an end in themselves; that, they had been thrust into the serious business of teaming up with their compatriots in the critical nation building enterprise. At any rate, the sentiments aren’t new, but constitute familiar bells that have to be kept tolling, lest lethargy creeps in.

We need, and count on creative-innovative graduates, and not a ‘salary expectant’ species. But away from workstations, in self-initiated or co-operatively formed entrepreneurial outfits, as well as research centres, they should be torch bearers on critical social fronts.

A graduate who literally sends books on indefinite leave, and behaves almost no differently from semi-literate youngsters who are enslaved to the cheapest social media stuff and European soccer tournaments, are an utter disgrace!

IN PASSING

When a uniform is not a uniform Two traffic police officers at a Dar road intersection look very smart in their uniforms, but whereas one is almost crystal white, the whiteness of the other is slightly weaker; diluting the essence of uniformity.

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