The pandemic years have been anything but ‘normal’, but graduands have hope that the April 2022 graduations will provide them with the university experience they have missed.

Wits University is eagerly anticipating the first in-person graduation ceremonies since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, from April 19 to 29.

So says Abe Pieterse, head of the Wits Examinations and Graduation Office, adding that online graduations compromised the prestige of the event and now Wits is eager to show off its graduands. “This cohort… really deserve to have an in-person graduation,” Pieterse said. “The university invests in the ‘human factor’ of being a student.”

Pieterse told Wits Vuvuzela that in-person graduation ceremonies were part of Wits’ initial plan which developed from the stage-crossing in September 2021.

This year, graduands will be afforded the opportunity of a ‘normal’ graduation ceremony, with the experience emulating a pre-pandemic graduation. Regalia will be hired out, the chancellor or vice-chancellor will cap graduands and guests will be welcomed to campus.

Wits covid-19 protocols will be adhered to, prohibiting handshaking and hooding. Attendees are required to produce a vaccination certificate or negative PCR or antigen test on arrival. There will be social distancing and sanitisers will be available.

The ceremonies will be conducted in an outdoor marquee on the Library Lawns – which allows for natural ventilation – instead of the pre-pandemic venue, the Great Hall.

The graduation ceremony marquee being set up on the Library Lawns. Photo: Tannur Anders

Wits is limiting the number of graduands per session to a maximum of 330 plus two guests each. Remote learning over the past two years, however, did not negatively affect the university’s graduation rate, according to Pieterse, who says Wits’ blended learning model is expected to increase the graduation rates in the future.

Mikayla Waller (22), who will be graduating with a BA in psychology and linguistics, says that she is looking forward to the event. “It was really disheartening feeling like I was missing out on a university experience.”

Wits Vuvuzela student journalist Rufaro Chiswo (20) said she participated in the University of Cape Town’s informal graduation ceremonies termed “walks of celebration”, in March this year. “I don’t think any university is willing to put [its] extended community at risk for something that could be adjusted as easily as a graduation… There was a lot of waiting involved but it was not a poorly handled day. I think they did a good job.” Chiswo said.

This is the order of graduation ceremonies:
April 19 – 20, faculty of science
April 20 – 25, faculty of commerce, law and management
April 25 – 26, faculty of humanities
April 28 – 29, faculty of engineering and the built environment                                                                                                                                                                                            Graduands who are unable to attend these ceremonies will be able to take part in a stage-crossing ceremony on Saturday, April 23, 2022.

The faculty of health sciences held in-person graduation ceremonies in December 2021.


FEATURED IMAGE: Hard at work setting up the April 2022 graduation ceremony marquee. Photo: Tannur Anders