On Wednesday, 29 March, the University of Cape Town (UCT) sent 1 582 Faculty of Humanities graduates out into the world. Now, academic staff and loved ones who contributed to their success can breathe a large sigh of relief, sit back and watch proudly as these newly qualified professionals contribute to building a fair and just society.
UCT is in the middle of a bumper autumn graduation season – more than 5 000 graduands are being capped during a record 15 ceremonies held over five days in the Sarah Baartman Hall this week. The largest number of graduands belong to the Faculty of Humanities, followed by Commerce at 1 447, Health Sciences at 719, Science at 564, and Law at 217. Campus is a hive of activity – jubilant graduating students dressed to the nines, milling around in their robes ahead of each ceremony with proud and excited loved ones nearby ready to witness the momentous occasion.
Addressing the packed Sarah Baartman Hall, UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe reminded the cohort that they have achieved their degrees during a time of incredible and unforeseen change. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the 2021 devasting UCT fire, and load shedding have all played a monumental role in their years of study.
“We know that in the South African context the conditions for learning are far from ideal. But we’ve come to understand that it’s not about the degree. It’s really about your ability to seek out, acquire and create knowledge regardless of the setting,” Dr Moloi-Motsepe said.
Explore, learn and serve
She encouraged the cohort to commit to three things as they enter the world as UCT graduates:
“You’ve heard the phrase ‘Lift as you rise’. When you lift others, you will find that they can lift you in return in ways you did not imagine. UCT and your family and each one of us look forward to meeting you out there in the world in the corridors of power and leadership. And we want to remind ourselves and claim you as UCT alumni,” Moloi-Motsepe said.
An extra special occasion
The afternoon ceremony was particularly special. In recognition of her commitment to preserving the Nluu language – once spoken in South Africa by the San people – UCT conferred an honorary doctorate on Her Excellency ǂXuu Katrina Esau.
Her Excellency ǂXuu Esau, fondly known as Ouma Katrina, is the only remaining fluent speaker of Nluu in the world – a 25 000-year-old endangered language. In an effort to preserve her beloved mother tongue, Esau teaches Nluu at a tiny school at her house in Rosedale, outside Upington in the Northern Cape. Her goal is to use her skills to transfer valuable knowledge to the youth, with the hope that the San people’s language and cultural ways will prevail for generations to come.
While she remains rooted in her culture, she uses advances in technology to enable her teaching methodology. As a result, she plans to produce educational CDs and DVDs so that people everywhere can learn the language. Her book Qhoi n|a Tijho (Tortoise and Ostrich) remains the only children’s book published in Nluu. It has been translated into both English and Afrikaans, making it widely accessible.
Esau accepted her degree of Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) to roaring applause and a standing ovation from the audience.
“She has embodied the creation and exchange of knowledge in the midst of challenging circumstances.”
“Receiving the highest academic honour today is Her Excellency ǂXuu Katrina Esau. She has embodied the creation and exchange of knowledge in the midst of challenging circumstances. Her Excellency [ǂXuu Esau] is ensuring that as we strive towards creating the future of work we never lose sight of our past,” Moloi-Motsepe said.
The highlight of the academic year
During the morning graduation ceremony, UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness Professor Elelwani Ramugondo echoed Moloi-Motsepe’s overarching message. She commended graduands for their hard work and sacrifice over their years of study and acknowledged loved ones and sponsors for the vital role they’ve played during these gruelling years.
“Indeed, graduation is the highlight of the academic year. It’s the time when we all come together, and that is everyone – academic and professional staff, your parents and we don’t forget the sponsors. Sometimes, what the family can contribute is not enough and it does help when others step forward to support,” Professor Ramugondo said.
She added that the education they have received at UCT will set a firm foundation for their futures in the world of work and will help them to uphold UCT’s Vision 2030.
“The education you have received from this institution has helped you to unleash some of your potential. But you are not done. You will continue to benefit from the foundation that has been laid for you at UCT,” she said. “As members of management and leadership of the university, we honour the hard work you’ve put in over the three or more years that have enabled you to be here to celebrate your great achievement today. We believe that you will do amazing things as you walk out of this hall and into your lives as graduates.”
‘Don’t hold back’
She urged the cohort to inspire others around them whose potential may be lying dormant, and to play an active role in helping them to shine.
“I want to take this opportunity to challenge you to take part in unleashing your abilities and the abilities of those around you.”
“We know that in helping others you will be stretching not only their boundaries but yours as well. I want to take this opportunity to challenge you to take part in unleashing your abilities and the abilities of those around you.
“Don’t hold back from sharing what your degree has the potential to do. We are sending you out into a world that desperately needs this kind of leadership. We are entrusting you with the future of not only this country, but the continent and the world. We are proud to do so.”
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