Graduation: The first day of the rest of your life

‘There are two types of people in B-school. Those who are there, teaching and learning how to do business, and those who couldn’t make it…’ – Anonymous

I went to a cousin’s graduation party. Her father’s speech was inspirational, to me. I thought it would be worth sharing, especially with our new graduates. So to all of you: congratulation, you have done it. Enjoy your big day. It is a day where you feel that all your efforts have been rewarded, it is one of the rare days that your parents – if they are like mine, say publicly that they are proud of you.

It is a day that you feel you can take on the world. The truth is you can, indeed. But probably because you now have the confidence to, and certainly not because you just spent four, five, eight years of your life in school.

‘You are lucky’, my uncle said; ‘at your age we were also graduating, but we did not have a country; one that promoted us to the best of our abilities; you do! So remember that all this is for you to serve your country.’ ‘Your degree should be an opportunity to learning, not an obstacle. I, your father and your uncles here present, graduated in yours and similar fields, but today we are working in different fields; be open minded.’ I thought the old man made a lot of sense…

School is too easy in comparison with the world out here. Think about it: Some one tells you what to do and all the tricks on how to do it; then he tells you to go practice and comeback another day to tell him how it’s done. After graduation, its different: you are on your own. School, is also partly outdated: while you are studying, the world is changing faster than your teacher and your textbooks.

‘Instead of saying: now that you are graduated you can take on the world, it’s probably best to say, now you can finally learn something’ My uncle concluded. Still, that is not a guarantee: A friend told me: ‘the thing with a PhD is that you learn an awful lot of very little’, in which you become an expert and nothing else.

It is such a shame that school insulates most of us; suddenly we are lost in our heads instead of hitting the ground running. We become stiff and narcissist. We try hard to show that we are smart. We insist on being called ‘Engeneer, Counsel, Doctor’ – By the way, in Portuguese, every respectable person is ‘doutor’- degree or no degree; in Medicine, as we know; a bachelor’s suffices.

One more hint: the education system in Rwanda is not quiet up to scratch; but it gives you the very basics. In the famous play of Shakespeare, Hamlet tells Horatio while they are studying together at Wittenberg: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy’: what he means is: Horatio: this school is the floor, not the sealing; we can do better than this. So can you; regardless of the school! I have met idiots from Ivy league and wise people who never went to school. It is absurd to demand more from the Rwandan education system. That is what they can offer for now, within their means; but that is not all you can get – also within your means. If you want to learn, you will learn. Interesting books and people are available and keen to share their knowledge and experience with you, if you show intellectual curiosity – that is.

If you feel that you are not learning anything new from your current friends, maybe it is time to change scenery… Yes, with education you are ready to take on the world, sadly, education begins after graduation…
This post is homage to my Uncle Andrew – who is also my friend; and to my lovely cousin Cynthia: Congrats baby, you did well!

Posted 22nd August 2014