Men’s Hall Residence students were celebrating their fellow housemates at graduation today but bystanders assumed they were protesting. 

Earlier today, while on my way to photograph graduating students and their families outside the Wits Great Hall, I heard what sounded like chanting.

A few steps further and I finally saw a small group of students walking towards the Great Hall. At first glance, it looked and sounded like a protest but after asking, I found out that the the students were from the Men’s Hall of Residence and were singing in unison to celebrate a few of their housemates graduating.

Many bystanders approached me while I was busy photographing the students and asked why they were “protesting”. They too were surprised to learn that the singing was in celebration of the graduants. My responses were met with reactions of “Oh really? That’s so sweet”.

Thabo Boom, SRC (Student Representative Council) Deputy Secretary General, said that the Mens Hall of Residence have been singing and chanting  in celebration as a “tradition” and “every Raider that graduates gets the same treatment on their day”.

It occurred to me today that when there is a group of students singing, the general assumption is that there is a protest. And automatically, these students are perceived as aggressive and disruptive. We need to understand that people, and students in this instance, don’t only sing and chant in protest, they also do it in celebration at times.  Today’s graduation was one of those times.