I gave up on wearing suits almost 2 years ago, but today I had to put on one. It is another important day in our lives as a family. My “sugarbobo” is getting conferred with the Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Given the efforts she had put into this, she deserves this and much more.
We made our ways to the Perth Convention Centre in the city, the venue of the ceremony. The programme of event had requested an early arrival if we want to take some pictures to commemorate the occasion. Of course, we do and did arrive early. As we made our ways into the auditorium and the official programme began, we were reminded of the Edith Cowan University values of Integrity, Respect, Rational Enquiry and Personal Excellence. These were all the values, and more, that my wife had exhibited in her quest to get this degree, I can attest to this. Whether I was here with her in Australia or thousands of miles away across the Indian Ocean, I am a witness of her struggles. She literally moved her nights to the study, forsaking the comforts of our bedroom. Oftentimes when I woke up at night to visit the restroom, her spot by my side was nearly always vacant. A peep downstairs, seeing the lights in the study on, always left me reassured that all was well. I became envious, she seemed to have fallen in love more with her study than with me. Her efforts have yielded the results she wanted, the ones she really deserve, and today we celebrate with her.
As it is with many formal ceremonies across Australia, respect had to be given to the first Australians. The indigenous elder that declared the ceremony open was impressive and did a splendid job. He acknowledged the owners of the land, past and present, and followed up by wading off any evil spirit that may be lurking around while he welcomed the good spirits. In doing this, he set the stage for the epoch occasion. Experiencing this, I noted the similarity between the African and Australian Aborigine culture. I need no other argument to convince me that there is a strong kinship between the two people.
This year’s valedictorian is Natalie Sutherland. In her speech, she laid before the audience what is possible when the human spirit says YES. She is married, lives in regional Australia and mid-aged, all sufficient reasons for anyone to give up from pursuing an academic laurel and chase after some other easily achievable goals. Not Natalie, she is a woman of steel. In addition to her challenges, she has to mother three teenagers aged seventeen, nineteen and twenty-one. And one more thing, she hasn’t been in any formal classes since finishing high school thirty years ago! What laid ahead of her was a weekly commute of 250kms to and from Perth to study. At forty-five years old, she resolved to face her demon and today she stands, with her head held high, with all grace as the valedictorian at this year’s graduation. What an extra-ordinary Australian story, a story of remarkable doggedness!
Edith Cowan University (ECU) was never a feature in our life when we moved here about half a decade ago. Today, we are proud to congregate with other families to honour the dedication of these bold souls that won’t say No in their quest for knowledge.
As we watch in quiet adulation as she joins others, who had expended similar energies, to be awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, some will ask “why is this important and what is the big deal with achieving this late in life”? I make bold to say it is a big deal! A really big one when we all do pause to reflect that life is a continual journey at making oneself better than one was yesterday. When an ambition is accomplished is not as important as the fact that the ambition is accomplished. She could have given up, but just as Natalie didn’t so didn’t Saf.
As the graduands get called to collect their certificates, I was filled with gladness when her name got announced by the Dean of the School of Medicine. I think she called Saturafu but this didn’t matter to us nor to Saf, this mispronunciation is easily forgiven. She would still face this many times more in the workplace. As she took those fair steps towards the Deputy Vice Chancellor, I sat as a proud husband, surrounded by our two kids, watching her face beam with a radiant smile as she got bestowed with the degree.
I am a blessed man. The journey had not always been swift but having a companion that shares the same ideals and life goals makes it worth it. Today, as she graduates, my little Red Pumpkin will be starting her course of study at the same school to become a Medical Doctor. As I look into the future, I could see us congregating here again, in 3 years, in her honour. Life is good, only for those who are bold enough to hold the bull by the horns.