Graduands of 2020, the provost, the university administration, honoured guests, family, friends, and well-wishers, we are so honored to have you all here on this beautiful and auspicious occasion as we celebrate the dawn of an important chapter in our lives. My name is Scoviah Masudio, and I am so honored to be representing the class of 2020 today.
I thank God for the grace and preservation of our lives that we are here today witnessing an important milestone in our lives. Despite the numerous disruptions and setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have persevered and we stand proud today as we declare ourselves champions!
I come from a family of 10 siblings and several cousins. My father (God rest his soul) finally attained his first degree at the age of 58. He told me: “My daughter, I don’t have money, neither am I much educated, but what I can tell you is that if I have managed to get my degree at this age, then nothing can ever stop you from achieving your dreams.” He said” “You must go back to school. I want those that classified me as a failure to know that great people have emerged from my family.” At last! Here I am today, the first girl from a long line of my family to graduate with a degree. That is history made for me, small as it is. Today is a dream manifesting into reality!
I did not achieve this on my own. I am here today because of each and every one of you. Thank you, the university administration, the faculties and school staff. You never gave up on us, you guided and nurtured us so diligently and now it is our time to blossom.
To family and friends, thank you for the endless sacrifices you made to ensure that this day comes to pass. To my classmates, thank you for the inspiration and encouragement.
To the Johnson & Johnson scholarship scheme, words alone can’t express our gratitude – thank you very much.
We all have dreamt and eagerly waited for the convocation day, and it has finally arrived! But what happens after today? What does your degree or diploma mean to you? Is it going to be another piece of paper to add to your living room decorations? What are you going to do with what you have got from Aga Khan University? To the nurses and midwives, are we just excited about becoming nursing or midwifery officers? What impact will your qualification have on the lives and training of your colleagues at work who did not have the opportunity to go back to school?
We have been empowered and are now being set free into the world, battle-tested and ready to serve humanity as agents of change, through our various disciplines.
We have received the training and skills to be the best we can be out there, but are we prepared to deal with failure? I am not saying that you will be a failure, but this is life. It's never a straight and smooth path. It is filled with hills and rough terrains, and unexpected curveballs. You will apply for jobs and never get called back, you will try to save that mother bleeding, and she will die. How will you deal with all of this? Remember, no one is perfect. Every time we fall, we get an opportunity to rise stronger and wiser to deal with what made us fall. The number of times you fall doesn’t matter; it is the number of times you refuse to stay on the ground that counts. Failure should never hold you back; it should instead ignite fire in you to want to learn a better way to handle the same problem. The first semester was tough on me, I did not perform as I expected, coupled with the loss of my father, I was so discouraged and almost gave up. Well, here I am today. I decided that I am not a quitter, and neither are you!
This is our moment to shine, go and make a difference in the world. Make use of every opportunity that comes your way, if the opportunities are not there, create them yourself. You will discover that you have more potential and capability than you give credit to yourself. You are unstoppable, you have all you need to rewrite your history. Create your own legacy, put passion and dedication in everything you do, face all your fears with boldness and encouragement, turn your weak points into your strongest. Be the best version of yourself every day.
Thank you and good luck to you all!
Congratulations class of 2020! God bless you.
Honorable Chief Guest,
Ladies and gentlemen,
And my fellow graduates,
The Aga Khan Class of 2020 – or as a friend once jokingly called us, ‘The Aga Khan Class of COVID’. This may be an unconventional ceremony, we may be sitting here with masks, with our loved ones hundreds of miles away, but let me tell you all, even a global pandemic could not stop us from graduating. So congratulations AKU Class of 2020! You did it! We all finally did it. Before reflecting on all that we are celebrating, I want you all to picture a few, very true stories.
Ayesha is a 4 year old girl in a village in Pakistan. She is not learning or laughing at school, she is on the ground sweeping floors. She is just one of 22.5 million uneducated children in Pakistan. Simoni is an orphan a few days old in Tanzania. Her mother died bleeding on a bus in labour. Tanzania has amongst the highest maternal mortality in the world. Njuguna is a resident nurse in Murang, Kenya. He is the only healthcare provider for 8,000 people. The WHO recommends at least 25 nurses per 10,000 people, Kenya barely has 8.
I know this is rather a grim note to start such a joyous occasion on, however it is with a purpose that I am sharing all of these stories. Today, all of you in this beautiful green regalia, are not only celebrating your hard work, blood, sweat and tears, sacrifices and accomplishments – you are celebrating so much more. You are celebrating the hope that you symbolize for Ayesha, for Simoni, for Njugana, for the thousands of others. You are celebrating being change makers and leaders in a world that needs you, in the nations that built you and when we’re facing our worst humanitarian crisis in COVID-19. Now more than ever before, the world needs doctors, nurses and midwives, it needs educationists and journalists, it needs health systems experts and epidemiologists it needs men and women like you to change the landscape; to ensure that such suffering ceases to exist, to ensure that we as nations and as humanity are better prepared. Why am I so sure that you and I are so instrumental in this change?
That’s because I have spent five years growing old with many of you. I have spent days at the Sports Centre with many of you, I have spent nights hysterically laughing about exams, I have spent hours worrying about that lecture with all of you. And I have learnt what the Aga Khan student embodies: it is commitment, it is resilience, it is leadership, it is talent. And there were tougher days — not all the days were that easy. There were days when we would have a child begging, pleading, crying with us to help ease the pain. There were days where we accidentally wrote EEGs instead of ECGs — that’s a true story. So all of those days – the happy, the sad, the gruelling, the gratifying – have culminated in a very deserved day and so many memories.
And none of them would be possible without the security guard, without the librarían, the cook, the housekeeping staff, the administrative staff – thank you for making every day possible. And thank you to the phenomenal faculty, thank you to the friends like family and thank you to those who are happier than we are today. To our parents and our loved ones: we couldn’t have done this without you. And, finally, thank you to the man with the vision, His Highness the Chancellor, who built our futures.
Before I end, I want to leave you all with two ideas: family and hope. Today we are not the Aga Khan University Nairobi or Kenya or UK or Uganda or Pakistan, we are simply the Aga Khan University. We are the AKU family, inextricably linked to one another – and like every family, it can be too much at times, but it will always have your back. And today, as we leave the nest, I have the audacity to hope. The hope that if we give it our all, if it is one life that we save, one child we teach, one story we change – it is more than enough. It is the hope of a better future, together. So let today mark a beginning, not an end. Fellow graduates, especially over this past year, we have been living history. I think it is high time that you and I go out there and start making history. So, I cannot wait to see all that you achieve. Here is to new beginnings.