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Commencement or culminating exercises?

June 2, 2016

Dear Mr. Editor:

From the time of my first graduation which was many, many years ago, I had always wondered as to why graduation ceremonies were referred to as “commencement” exercises. I later understood that graduation ceremonies are referred to as “commencement” exercises due to the fact that it is preparing students for a “new beginning.” It offers the perception that it is only the start of all things great and new. It is designed to give students the unalterable hope that it is at this point where their lives will just begin – wherein a copious amount of opportunities will flood their way and where many doors will be open and countless paths will be there to explore and trod.

This, however, while it is an innocent idea that forms the precepts of something good, is but a mere illusion to the masses of graduates except for a privileged few. At the end of these “commencement” exercises, there are indeed doors that are swung wide open and paths that are paved with good intentions. However, this is only the reality for a few privileged persons. The reality for the majority of the masses is that at the end of those “commencement” exercises that is where the buck stops for many. They are left to try and garner support from community members and stakeholders to try and further their studies locally, if even part time. Others are left to try and find a part time job after high school to fund their educational aspirations which they will only be able to suffice on a part time basis.

Truth be told that while the term “commencement” exercise is being used and offers the illusion of a barrage of opportunities waiting to be explored, that is not the case. Reality is that these “commencement” exercises signal the end for many students’ educational aspirations and employment opportunities. Most of them are forced to take basic wage jobs after the completion of high school and in many cases with the demands and required work hours of these jobs, educational aspirations wither and die and the quest for sustenance and survival takes effect. As these dreams die, the once pursuant becomes complacent and settles where they are. This then means that we should seriously take some time to reflect and evaluate whether or not it is really a “commencement” exercise or a culminating act that these students are undergoing.

Finally, this then explains the cycle that young people in our society are going through. They are forced to grapple with a few, limited and lack of opportunities after their proverbial “commencement” exercise. Having completed their high schooling, the availability of opportunities both educational and employment wise is limited to scarce. This adds credence to why many young people are left to grapple with the hardships and fragmentation of the society. While admittedly some efforts are being made to retain young people longer in the educational sector and incentives are offered to assist students in furthering their studies, there needs to be a more comprehensive and unified effort to ensure that students are really given the opportunities that they deserve so as to bring true meaning to the term “commencement” exercise.

R. A. Neal

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