Wits University is celebrating 2020/21 graduates with stage crossing ceremonies. 

It has been a week filled with ululation, broad smiles and hundreds of students in black robes crossing the covid-safe outdoor stage on East Campus at Wits University. 

Bachelor of education graduate, Lisa Mwewa, walked across the stage on September 29, on the day set aside for the Humanities faculty. Mwewa told Wits Vuvuzela the stage crossing ceremony is a necessity. “It was quick. We kept to covid-19 regulations but we still got to celebrate and we are so grateful.” 

Professor Ian Jandrell, deputy vice chancellor at Wits, said he was pleased by the turnout and enjoyed seeing  “the absolute joy in the students walking across the stage”.  

Following the uproar around virtual graduation ceremonies held during the winter break, the university became one of the first to host in-person stage crossings for graduation during the ongoing pandemic.   

Some Witsies were up in arms when former Miss South Africa, Shudufhadzo Musida was seemingly the only student allowed to graduate in-person in a filmed stage crossing in July 2021. Their ire was further provoked when students’ names did not come up on screen during the virtual ceremony hosted on YouTube. 

As a result, Wits deleted the initial recording, blaming the omission of names on a “technical error”. A month later new, faculty specific versions in which graduates names were read out and visible on screen were uploaded. 

Monique Passos, bachelor of arts cum laude graduate said: “The stage crossing ceremony was much better than the virtual ceremony… it was nice to be officially recognised.” Passos’s father, Walter Passos, told Wits Vuvuzela “As parents we are very proud. This is our first baby that got a degree in the family. That is wonderful.” 

Those graduating were only allowed to invite one person to accompany and celebrate with them during the stage crossing ceremony. Jandrell said he is pleased with the event because: “When you think back on the difficulty of getting your degree, the time, effort and sacrifices; it seems really unfortunate if you are not able to have that moment on the stage.”  

Other marquees were placed on campus in front of Great Hall where graduates could rent out regalia and pay to take photographs with their chosen supporter. Once their names are called out and their pictures taken, graduates are advised to leave the campus to adhere to the safety measures of the adjusted level 2 lockdown regulations. 

The stage crossing ceremony will end on Friday October 1, 2021 with the health sciences faculty graduates being the last to have the opportunity to be seen receiving that recognition for their hard work.

FEATURED IMAGE: Karabo Mashaba, BA graduate and Wits Vuvuzela journalist. Photo: Melissa Sima