How Covid has normalised graduating in your pyjamas

Gone are the days of relatives trooping from the village to join the fete

In Summary

• Avoidance of huge gatherings, tough economy have taken the life out of graduations


Four years ago, when Fiona joined university, if you told her she’d be seated on her bed in her pyjamas during her graduation day, she probably would have told you you were mad. She had already been dreaming of how glamorous her graduation party would be as soon as her journey at the university began. But fate had different plans for her.  

Graduation day is that one day every student always looks forward to. It marks the end of years of toiling at school, and ushers in a new phase full of opportunities in the job market. Many who have since graduated say that, from the moment their names are added to the graduation list, they cannot help but keep grinning widely.

Before Covid struck, these occasions were marked with pomp and colour. In areas where institutions of higher learning are situated, on graduation day, the roads were impassible and the roadsides often full of matatus that ferried families from the villages to come see their relative graduate.

Then there were the parties that came afterwards. Friends and family would head home to have sumptuous delicacies, followed by the many speeches from family members. And depending on where one came from, alcohol and music would be served for the better part of the night – a move that would sometimes spoil the party when some got drunk and began misbehaving.

That wholesome fiesta was the kind of graduation Fiona hoped for.

When the pandemic struck, she was in her third year of study. The class that graduated that year was the first ever to graduate online. As certain aspects of life began getting back to normal in 2021, she hoped their graduation would, too. She wanted to experience the day spending time with her classmates, reminiscing what the journey has been like, taking their final pictures together and having a party.

When the day was nigh, their institution decided to have its graduation online primarily to prevent the spread of Covid. The ceremony was online and their names were presented at a live broadcast. She did have a party, but the attendance was limited. In part due to the avoidance of huge gatherings but also because of the tough economic situation, which means less money to spend on luxuries.

This new normal is a reality for many students. Much as some institutions are trying their best to have in-person ceremonies, the emergence of new waves of Covid, as well as new variants, still poses a challenge to this. What this then means is that we might have to get used to this new way of doing things. Change always seems unsettling, but it is the only constant in life. Instead of feeling indignant about not having huge gatherings, graduands should find new ways of making their graduation days fun. Maybe go to a studio and take pictures with friends, have lunch with your circle of friends, have a small dinner at home: anything that makes the day memorable. The days of having many people turn up for graduations seem to be long gone.

Edited by T Jalio