CONGRATULATIONS - 2021 Law Graduates

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In congratulating the UFH law graduates of 2020 I finished off my message as follows: “If ever there was an ‘Against all odds group’, you are it! You are conquerors....” 

Little did I, or anyone else at the time, know that the group behind them would have to go beyond the “against all odds threshold”! We were even speculating about the possibility of an in-person Spring Graduation in 2020, but it was not to be. Instead, you, the class of 2020, experienced all the 2019 challenges and more! You are the class that had to finish a task which began in the midst of a high stakes war and the miasma of a global pandemic! 
My mantra this past year was, “we must have the maturity and discipline to recognise, accept and do that which is necessary to achieve that which is desirable”. You have proved that you epitomise this by reaching this milestone in the midst of sickness, depression, lack, uncertainty and even death. The one ingredient I forgot to include in there is courage - and this too, you brought forth by the bucket load.
 You had to keep hope alive when the academic year seemed all but lost. You had to suddenly and radically adapt in your final and most cognitively challenging year, to new ways of learning and new ways of assessment. In many instances you were led by leaders, teachers and a system that was itself battling to adapt and keep the ship of the academic enterprise afloat and on course. 
I also repeatedly spoke of the importance of “grit” and quoted former President Thabo Mbeki who, back in 2008 declared: “those who complete the course will do so only because they do not, as fatigue sets in, convince themselves that the road ahead is still too long, the inclines too steep, the loneliness impossible to bear and the prize itself of doubtful value”. In line with this timeless counsel in contending with adversity, you kept your focus on the prize and hunkered down to the task at hand in spite of everything. Some of you have been or are battling depression and an existential crisis, grief, and all that Covid-19 has thrown at you. 
Your final year was without precedent and extraordinarily difficult yet here you are! Kudos to you all graduates of 2021! Every war has its heroes and the coronavirus pandemic is a war. You are some of the heroes of this war, for you stayed at your stations while the world went mad around you and you have triumphed. Amazingly, more of you managed to complete the LLB this past year than before! 
I still see in my mind’s eye the ones who had to climb a hill behind their homesteads to get a better signal as classes went virtual. I see the ones who, again and again had to contend with technology having a bad hair day. I see also the ones who, in order to continue learning, had to borrow devices and squat with friends when the country went into lockdown and the university shut its doors. I see and remember also the ones that wrote to the university whilst in quarantine and isolation away from home family; their bodies ailing but their spirits still resolute, imploring the university not to leave them behind.
I could go on. You more than deserve the recognition. Kudos to you all...onwards and upwards graduates of 2021! You, class of 2020 are MORE THAN CONQUERORS. Ndinothulela umnqwazi!! 
By Mr Actor Katurura, Senior Lecturer: Private Law Coordinator: Faculty of Law Extended Curriculum Programme.
TAU Fellow