Benn Arunga, Class of 2012
All protocols observed, good afternoon. Recently, I received one of those chain emails that seemed to suggest that everything is becoming less and less. But class of 2011, our hopes, aspirations and dreams are boundless! We are leaving AKU with lots of memories. In sourcing material for this speech, I contacted Teuzi, in Mombasa who emailed me that he can never forget Professor Anjum Halai’s reminder that afternoon of 3rd June 2010 that we were Masters Students and therefore should read and read hard. From Kengeja in Pemba, Rajab texted me that defense of the research proposal was a nightmare, but am glad to see you graduating today Rajab: bravo! Maryline in Nakuru, Kenya told me that she will live long to remember Mary Oluga’s interactive theater moment when Namunyak made Zeenat our Teacher Learning lecturer cry. Congratulations friends. You have made it.
Theodore Roosevelt the 26th and youngest ever president of the USA when mediating in the Russo- Japanese war said: In any moment of decision making the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. Class of 2011, our choosing to come and pursue further education at AKU was the right and best decision. We are gathered here as one body, the class of 2011 and this indeed, is a landmark day not just for us the graduating students, but the faculty, our families, the university senate and council and the entire AKU fraternity. Today is a day we tell ourselves, oh yes, those 600 or so days were not days spent in vain and pain.
Class of 2011, we have much to be thankful for. On 23rd of April 2009, I received a call from Hesbon Nyagoa that I should report to Aga Khan primary school Kisumu for an interview. On my way there, I saw a sticker in a matatu, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” Here at AKU, we received a great education thanks to our team of dedicated faculty, administrators, the entire university fraternity and our individual East African governments. Dear faculty, this class is prepared to move on and to take on whatever challenges that may come next in our lives. The six months we have been in the field before this convocation have already given us a taste of what the future holds. Fellow graduates, lets appreciate the great gift being as prepared as we are is, because that cannot be said for all universities especially within the east African context. Here at AKU, we have had a very high degree of academic excellence. Here, we have encountered the true meaning of technologically mediated pedagogy.
Fellow graduates, it is my conviction that AKU has given us an education that has prepared us to foster change. I believe in Malcolm X’s assertion that, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today." AKU has prepared us for the future. AKU has prepared us to be the face of change in our families, in our schools and in our local communities. Like a well oiled machine, we will overcome any hurdles that may be thrown in our ways as we pursue that dream, the dream of effective change agents and leaders in our societies. I still have the tab to the key to my room in Mikocheni hostel that had a picture of Barack Obama and the words, “Change is coming.” Class of 2011, with the parchments that we have acquired today, change has indeed come to us, to our families, to our communities!
There is no doubt that the two years we spent here presented us with a lot of challenges. But there was always the joy and hope that we had our families tucked in some village somewhere telling us, “Come on mum, come on dad, come on brother, you can do it!” Give a mighty thank you to your partner, mother, father or children whether they are here today or not. Colleagues, we would not be here today without them.
Class of 2011, I am thankful for each one of you. The friendships that we have built here in AKU will no doubt last a lifetime. They will certainly go beyond just us being alumni of the same university. I remember during re-entry as we were coming to the end of our course, Christine would whisper to me when Dr. Jane was not looking, “Benn, what was crafted in AKU shall remain in AKU”, but I want to say that what was crafted in AKU shall pervade from the beaches of the Indian Ocean here in Dar es Salaam to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, to the city square of Viola’s Kampala, to my local primary school in Mayoni, Kakamega County.
The same way we collaborated and helped each other to succeed in our studies, I hope we will continue to be there for each other, to support each other and network positively in future endeavors. This help and networking has already led to a taste of probably greater things to come. Comrades, it has been through collaborative and positive networks that have made it possible for four of us to have published works. This month of February on the 20th to the 23rd, another four of us will be having our first baptism of academic fire when we present our papers at the Kenyatta University International Conference on Educational reforms and innovation in enhancing quality and equity.
Often on graduation day graduands look far for heroes. I see heroes and heroines right here among us. Each one of us right here has the potential to make an inspiring contribution to others by being true to our values and committing ourselves to lofty goals. As a teacher, I think my job description can be summarized thus: inspire for the future. Ever since I came to AKU, I draw my inspiration from all those mothers who leave their families in pursuit of education and knowledge. Bravo to all the mothers in the class of 2011. I might never have said it to you in person, but I want to say it now: my standing here today is largely indebted to you! You have been tenacious and have had great character. Whenever the going got tough, I silently looked up to you ladies and it gave me the impetus I needed to carry on. Thank you for that, congratulations, and all the best!
At the beginning of 2009 when I came back to Kenya from a ten year stay in the Seychelles, I felt that I was too old to go back to class and learn. I had just been teaching twelve and thirteen year olds and trust me, they had made me feel old. However, when I met all of you my whole perspective about life-long learning changed. Having you as classmates made me know that I had made the right choice and that I was in the right company. I feel proud to have known and studied with you. AKU has made me rediscover what I had left dormant for close to twelve years and I hope comrades, it has been the same for you.
May I conclude by quoting Pope John the 23rd: Consult, not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. Ladies and gentlemen, I have not stood here as the 2011 valedictorian all by myself. I was molded by the AKU environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, class of 2011, we are all valedictorians. I say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who seated before me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is actually more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to institute the pedagogic revolution the education system in East Africa so badly needs.
Congratulations Class of 2011!