'Socially distant' graduation leaves students unhappy

Students at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) have expressed disappointment over the institution's decision to continue with its graduation but not in the fashion students are used to.

Instead of a large gathering, what has been described as "socially distanced graduation" will instead see the names of graduates being announced on radio and television stations. 

The graduates will then have to gather in groups of five to uplift their qualifications in the university office.

This is the latest blow to the University’s Faculty of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (T.V.E.T) and Faculty of Education (F.O.E.) graduation ceremonies, which has been postponed twice.

The postponements were due to the measles epidemic and now the coronavirus pandemic.

N.U.S.’s Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Aiono Alec Ekeroma, informed the graduates recently about the decision.

“Our Socially Distanced Graduation to recognize our T.V.E.T. and F.O.E. graduates will be aired on our N.U.S. Radio and N.U.S. Facebook,” he stated. 

He added that the announcement will also be televised on Wednesday evening by TV1 and TV3.

The graduates were also advised to uplift their T.V.E.T. graduate and Teacher graduate certificates from the university’s Student Administration Office on the 2ND and 3rd of April.

One of the graduates for a Bachelor of Education, Ketesemane Key, is disappointed.

“The N.U.S. management has already decided that Bachelor of Education will be announced on the N.U.S. radio but the main graduation is still postponed with other faculty will still attend to it.

“I'm very unhappy with the announcement they have finalised, I didn't work hard for four years just to hear my name on the radio.

“I have been looking forward for this ceremony and also there were times I wanted to give up on school.”

He added that the graduation ceremony was one of the things that motivated him.

Another graduate, Elena Tavita, relayed the same displeasure.

“This is not how I imagined the end of my four years of struggle, sleepless nights, stress and pressure would end up with.

“I imaged myself walking on that stage in front of thousands of people with so much happiness and overwhelm feeling because I know I did it and i made it through the end. 

“Unfortunately everything that I have ever imagined has become just a dream.”

She added that the cancellation of the teachers’ graduation is not fair for them.

“We deserve to be on that stage with honor and please be considerate that all the teachers should be graduated not just to be there to uplift our certificate.”

Erolini Fretton who is also one of the graduates said that graduation ceremonies are something that everyone looks forward to.

“It is because we are not picking up rubbish, we are pressured to do assignments and study just to reach the aim which is graduate.

“How would they feel if it was them that studied for years just to be awarded improperly?

“It is a degree not just a certificate and lots of students feel sad because they studied hard for the sake of many eyes that are looking and want their families to feel proud of them.”

She added that it’s not fair to them as teachers to not have a graduation ceremony.

Professor Aiono stated in an announcement on the university’s Facebook page that the T.V.E.T. graduation which was to be held last December was postponed to the 27th March due to the measles outbreak that affected the nation then.

“A further postponement was not acceptable, and the N.U.S. Council advised that the certificates be given out to the graduands especially for teachers who had to find work. 

“Management had then decided that instead of just giving out certificates, we would hold a Social Distancing Graduation Ceremony. 

“Although many Universities have considered virtual or online graduations in the COVID environment, there is a dearth of information about process. The process designed by the N.U.S. team, therefore, is a world first. 

“The main graduation ceremony scheduled for the 3rd April has been postponed until further notice.”


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