The final year for a student at whatever level of education is remarkable. It signifies the beginning of the end of one era and a transition into the next stage of life.
These transitions are akin to rites of passage.
No wonder the exits are sometimes celebrated with such unproportionate pomp and ceremony.
These days, graduating kindergarten pupils wear gowns and hoods.
In one of our neighbouring countries, they are celebrated like we would heads of state.
Their miniature-sized bodies, elegantly dressed, stick out of sunroof cars, as they graciously wave and receive cheers from by-standers, while they parade the principal streets.
For many final year university students, those closing weeks of the last semester is a period to die for.
That’s the period to ensure one’s cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is secured or even attempt to move it up to the next class.
It is also the last chance for many, irrespective of the disappointments and heartbreaks of previous semesters, to ensure that they leave with fond memories, and possibly consolidate potential life-long relationships.
There are examinations to write, but before and after and sometimes in between, there are even more valuable life-impacting events which happen.
Prominently featuring on the schedule of almost every final year student are a few leavers’ dinners, many of which are combined with awards ceremonies.
The selection of clothes is carefully done to ensure they are flattering enough.
On the women’s blocks, every other next door neighbour is turned into a make-up artiste.
The speeches and sometimes even food are not as important as the photos and videos that capture the unforgettable moments.
Then there is the small in-group interactions, and the purposive one-on-one rendezvous.
During these last days, critical life-long relationships are sealed, nurtured or even started.
Therefore, an abrupt end to an exit year is not what any student looks forward to.
When schools were closed in March, many such students hoped that the closure would last a few weeks and then things would get back to normal. That was not to be.
The journey online
Universities started to roll out online programmes.
These met some resistance; in some schools the resistance was fiercer than in others.
The apprehension was anticipated as a natural human reaction to an unfamiliar enterprise, coupled with the genuine concern about uneven distribution of e-resources across the country.
Through constant engagement with students, data provision, technology improvement, training of faculty, and deployment of e-learning ambassadors, some schools made significant progress.
Just when many seemed to have settled into this new way of teaching and learning, there was the call to get back to school.
Predictably, this was met with mixed feelings.
Some students had become comfortable with the idea of being able to attend class without taking a shower and probably lying in bed in boxer shorts, while following lectures online.
One could even have a breakfast meal of gari and beans in the middle of lectures without fear of reprimand.
At the University of Ghana, the announcement that the online programme will continue, while the students had the option of returning to campus to use campus resources, was met with elation.
Back with Hope
Some students have genuine reasons to come back to our university campuses – to use resources they lack.
Others have more interesting ideas; they are tired of containing their youthful energies indoors, under the piercing and restrictive eyes of their parents, many of whom have spent more time at home in the past three months than all the time they have been parents.
These students see a second chance to have a proper wrap up to their university lives.
Some genuinely hope that direct access to the Universities’ resources will serve them well in their bid to graduate with an impressive or even a decent CGPA.
Others too hope that despite all the restrictions on socialization that school managements have put in place, there will be a window of opportunity to shore up the social capital they feel they have been robbed off.
Either way, the exit year of Class of 2020 has been one marked with apprehension, suspense and enduring hope.
Source: Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo | University of Ghana
The author is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Student Affairs) of the University of Ghana. firstname.lastname@example.org