I took a quick look at the official Twitter handle for the University of Rwanda and the first thing I noticed were the smiling faces of recent graduates. The five of them that appeared on the background picture were three ladies and two gentlemen, all well-dressed if I can add.
This was of interest to me because a week ago, the handler of the account tweeted that “We encourage Male students attending #URGrad2018 to wear suit and tie or bow tie. It’s the standard of academic graduation. We hope to see you smart on Friday at Huye Campus. See attached photos for inspiration. #WeAreUR”
The tweet was essentially prescribing a dress code for the male students with what was termed as the ‘standard of academic graduation.’ Photos were also attached for those who may not have been sure of what was being talked about.
Someone asked about the females and the response was sharp and brief, “Just be smart and creative.” In an era where women often complain about the policing of what they should wear, a university Twitter account was doing this for men and giving the women the leeway to simply be creative.
Speaking of creative, I would have thought that this would be a good day for some to show off Rwandan outfits instead of a strait jacket dress code (pun intended). The way one dresses on such a day is also a form of expression and limiting the options can indeed appear as limiting fashion freedoms of adults especially the males.
Graduation day is a big day for anyone who has struggled to go through the education system that they would probably not need prompting as far as being smart on their big day is concerned. And by the way they are entering a world that will require them to be a lot more creative than ever before.
The University of Rwanda is marking five years since different public institutions of higher learning merged to form the University of Rwanda. A lot has been achieved in the last five years as well as the challenges that come with trying to merge different institutions into one solid block. At this point optics matter as well as the back room stuff.
Maybe students in the past dressed shabbily at graduations, maybe they didn’t and it was prudent to remind them. I really don’t know.
What I know is that dressing well should not be something we think of when one is done with their university studies. It should be instilled in them from the onset. There are times when we see school-going children. Often times we see school children walking around dressed shabbily not knowing that if they are wearing the school uniform then they are still a representation of that school wherever they are.
Also this is the time when many schools in the region are going through the end of year examinations as well as the final examinations for different levels of their study. Some are or will be sitting their primary, ordinary level and advanced level examinations.
It is a tense moment as these exams often unfairly determine the future of these young people. Nothing is expected to disrupt them during this time. They brave the weather and more just make sure they are sitting on their desks by the time the examination scripts are handed out.
The exams are always guarded by security forces to ensure that there is no rigging. It is the standard practice all over the region. In other words during the time for exams the state has the capacity to ensure that there is a policeman or police woman at each school.
This vigilance is good and shows that the state cares about education but shouldn’t it be visible at other times as well? Like the times when rich and connected folks are grabbing school land to turn it into apartments or shopping malls.
Young people need to grow up knowing that the state will be there to protect them at all times so they can learn to trust and work with it. It is quite telling when they see its presence only at such times and struggle to connect with it at other times.
Education is crucial if we are to deal with the troubling question of youth employment. Therefore we should all be invested in the process long before examination time. Congratulations to the new graduates. The world is yours to conquer.