Professor Jairos Kangira
Graduation time is a special time that signifies that students have achieved their qualifications, and that they deserve to celebrate with their parents, guardians, friends and classmates. It is a time at the end of degree programmes that crowns the work or qualification. The Latin motto, finis coronat opus – the end crowns the work, aptly captures what happens at the time of graduation ceremony.
This slogan serves as a reminder and motivation during the years of the degree programme that one should remain on their studies as it will only be the end that will crown the work, after two, three or four years of study depending on the degree or diploma programme. The word ‘crown’ is used here as a metaphor signifying the achievement at the end, that is, the qualifications being bestowed on the students at the end of their studies, similar to the crowning of kings and queens.
April is a month of graduation ceremonies in Namibia and as you read this article, some students graduated this week and others will graduate in the following weeks.
As students graduate, there is often confusion between the terms ‘graduands’ and ‘graduates’. These two words are usually incorrectly used interchangeably because of the confusion. A graduand is not a graduate, and a graduate is not a graduand.
Where then lies the difference between these related words? When students are about to graduate or receive their degrees, they are referred to as graduands. In this sense, the students have not yet graduated, but they have completed their programmes and are about to graduate.
Graduates are people who have received their degrees or qualifications after successfully completing their programmes. Therefore we talk of , for example, graduates of Oshiwambo studies, graduates of engineering, graduates of mathematics, and graduates of anthropology, meaning people who have obtained degrees in these academic disciplines.
Although ‘graduand’ and ‘graduate’ have different meanings, they have the same root; they are derived from the Latin word ‘graduare’ which means ‘to graduate’. Graduation, graduation, graduation – when did this ritual begin?
We can trace graduation ceremonies to the University of Bologna in Italy, the first University in the world – more than 900 years ago. During those years, most of the students were priests and monks travelling from different European countries to the University of Bologna. Since monks and priests wore robes, it partially explains the academic regalia that graduands and academics wear today during graduation.
Another explanation for the academic gowns worn at graduation ceremonies is that the gowns were designed as such to keep graduands and academics warm during the ceremony. They were not meant for hot weather conditions like we have in Namibia.
Graduands and their lecturers look dignified and majestic in their academic attire which reminds everyone of the honour and respect that go with the attainment of an academic qualification.
And to crown it all, the academic procession is consecrated and solemnised by the song Gaudeamus Igitur, further making the procession grandiose and imposing. The graduation hymn makes fun of university life. Although there are variations of the Gaudemus Igitur song, here are some of its verses: While we are young, let us rejoice/Singing out in gleeful tones/After youth’s delightful frolic/Earth will cover our bones. / Long live our academy/Teachers whom we cherish/long live all the graduates/Ever may they flourish! / Life is short and too soon/We emit our final gasp/Death before long is on our back/Terrible is his attack/ none escapes his dread gasp.
While graduation marks the final completion of academic programmes, one thing that most people forget is that graduation is not the end of the academic road, no matter at what level. Graduation should be treated as the beginning of another level of study since learning is an on-going process as long as one lives. For it is said that anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or fifty. In short, the message is that after graduating with whatever qualification one should aim at a higher qualification, for example from certificate to diploma; from diploma to first degree; from first degree to master’s degree; and from master’s degree to a doctoral degree. After graduating with a doctorate degree one can still go for a post-doctoral programme. It is also common to find people with doctoral degrees enrolling for undergraduate degrees in other fields of interest.
This is the spirit that confirms that graduation should not be treated as the end of the academic road. In my speeches at graduation parties I have hammered this point, and I have emphasised that one does not ‘finish schooling’ at Grade 12 level or first degree level; neither at master’s level. The academic journey is longer than that if one decides to ‘finish schooling’. The advice is to continue in one’s discipline at all levels up to doctoral level, then one can at least begin talking about ‘finish schooling’. That’s the recommendation I make to the graduates for this year. So, there you are, act now by enrolling for a higher qualification until you reach the doctoral level. Congratulations to all graduates!
* Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. Email address: email@example.com
2019-04-05 10:18:45 2 months ago