Joel Ansah, 2019 Best Graduating Student of College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
Otumfour Osei Tutu II, Chancellor, Chairman of Council, Vice Chancellor, Pro Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Provosts of Colleges, Directors, Deans of Faculties, Heads of Department, Members of Convocation, Nananom, Ministers of State, Distinguished Guests, Parents/Guardians, Fellow Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is not only with great pleasure, joy and pride do I stand here as the valedictorian of the 2019 graduating class but also do so with stark humility. My fellow graduands, I know you cannot wait for the ceremony to be over to take your numerous pictures in your new clothes and before your make-up wears away. Some more impatient ones amongst us are already on Snapchat and Instagram posting videos and photos. In as much as I would entreat you to grant me your full attention, I would also be glad if you could make short videos of me and upload on your Instagram accounts, after all we are living in the twenty-first Century.
In the lives of all present today, a great milestone has been achieved. To the graduands, today we earn our first degrees and are being ushered onto the table of men. To parents and guardians, today you see the results of your relentless toil, support, care and counsel you have given your wards since their first day in school till this day as they are being celebrated and certified as true scholars. To the university staff, today you witness yet another crop of distinguished scholars and change leaders moulded by your own hands leaving school and ready to impact on the world and cause the transformation of Ghana and the continent at large. This is a moment that we all must be proud of, not only because we find ourselves seated here today, but most importantly because we have all played very important roles in events leading up to this day. Our hearts are filled with immense gratitude for our parents and guardians, who did all they could to make this day a reality in our lives. Your prayers, advice, constant remittances among others have really sustained us through our stay here. For our sake, some of you are now insolvent. Our deepest and sincerest gratitude is not enough to repay what you have given us. To the university management, your day to day efforts in ensuring our welfare and the smooth running of the institution is very commendable and much appreciated. The hundreds of students from less endowed schools graduating today are very much appreciative of the university’s commitment towards its own core values, specifically, Diversity and equal opportunity for all, and efforts of the university management to provide all high school leavers irrespective of the school one completed access to university education. Without the less endowed admission scheme, I would not be standing here today, and so would many of my colleagues seated. I will crave the indulgence of management of the University to explore more sources of funds for Students Financial Services to provide financial assistance in the form scholarships and bursaries to needy but brilliant students. Having been a beneficiary of Mastercard Foundation, I appreciate the important role of the scheme in the lives of needy students. I celebrate Mastercard Foundation today not only because of the financial assistance offered me, but also for the many lessons and training given. May the program live long to give many more young people the opportunity to be here. To our lecturers who painstakingly teach, coach, mentor and mark our horrible papers, some of you are god-sent and your motivation, encouragement and push brought us this far.
I must express the great pride and satisfaction I feel this morning as the mouthpiece of this amazing class. This feeling partly comes from the fact that I am the one out of the lot who gets the chance to be here delivering this speech. This has been a long-standing dream of mine since I stepped foot on campus, and through hard work and determination, here I am now, exactly where I wanted to be four years ago. If a student from such a less endowed school as mine, Three-Town Senior High School, can make it to this podium on this day, you should know nothing can stand in your way to success if you really work for it. This notwithstanding, my greatest feeling of satisfaction comes from the fact that I, together with my colleagues, have been able to brave the storms and survive the four-year battle on campus. This is no mean task.
Four years ago, I was part of a group of naive, green teenagers and young adults admitted into the prestigious KNUST. To many of us at the time, little did we know our journey was going to be a sequel to the Biblical 40 years journey of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, bedevilled with many battles and challenges coming from all angles. Little did we know that we would be stretched to the limits, uprooted from our comfort zones and hoisted in unfamiliar and unfriendly territories. Right from our first week on campus when reality begun to dawn on us, we realised that our high school teachers deceived us. The freedom they promised existed at the universities do not exist, or even if it existed at their time, went on exile during ours. Right from the word go, we were constantly bombarded with long and sometimes difficult lecture notes, articles, assignments, group works and class presentations. The thoughts of a fun filled life on campus, full of merry making and partying that we envisioned before coming were quickly banished from mind. We realised that to keep our heads above water, we had to gird our loins and face the battle before us with all passion and alacrity needed. Some of us had to pretend to ourselves that the study rooms were the night clubs we hoped for and thus burned the night candle there, forcing in complex theories and formulae that would not even stick in our minds. When we received calls from our friends back home, we had to pretend everything was alright with us and that the lives we were living on campus was all that we had hoped for. In fact, we even went the extra mile to convince them into joining us in this supposed ‘heaven on earth.’ Some of us plodded on under very tough circumstances, with unstable financial situations. There are those who struggled to get three square meals a day and others too had to take part-time jobs around campus just to be able to barely fend for themselves. Yet through all the struggles and challenges, we have made it. Comrades, we have been through fire and have come out refined. We have been through the furnace are now moulded into resilient and reliable change leaders. We have made it, and all and sundry present would understand when we scream our hearts out in joy today, because the journey has been tough. We are glad today, not only because we are graduating, but also because of the priceless experiences we have gathered from our stay here on campus. Through this journey, we have learned very important life lessons. Some of us have developed strong resilience, others perseverance, teamwork, public speaking, good communication and public relations. Some have their skills sharpened and have developed strong networks with lecturers and fellow students. Looking back on these past four years, one would admit there is no better place to be than KNUST. We are grateful for the lessons and experiences acquired here and we are sure memories of KNUST would forever linger on our minds.
To the graduating class, graduating today does not mean our struggles have come to an end or our challenges curtailed; it is the exact opposite as life would get no easier. I admonish you to toughen up and be prepared for life after school. Experiences and lessons learnt here should be applied in our everyday lives for this is the reason we have been trained. The resilience and hard work we have exhibited here on campus, should be seen at our various places of work and service too. Tough and difficult times would come and so we must toughen up and brace for impact. The good news is if we survived four years at KNUST, what else wouldn’t we survive. As we graduate today, our friendships and relationships with one another must not end here but rather be strengthened. Let friendships become strong networks, for with a strong network base, we can survive the vagaries weather out there, and together, hand in hand, we can build a strong and successful nation. As we go into the world today, let us know that we are the change agents whom the world has eagerly awaited and must let our impact be felt. The world into which we go, is an ailing one and the communities surrounding us have tons of problems that need quick remedying, and this is a cause we must pursue. We must give back to community at all cost, lest our education in a higher institution such as this profit no one. The world needs our creativity, ingenuity, dexterity and whatever quality each and every one of us here possesses. The world eagerly awaits our help and no matter what we do, we must not fail them. We go out today, not to become part of the existing problems, or stay unconcerned about the various challenges plaguing this nation, but in our own small ways, serve to build a better and formidable nation. To the world out there, help is on its way. A new crop of social scientists, and lawyers today are poised to contribute their quota in giving back to society and serving diligently, God and country.
Congratulations to all of us gathered here today, the future is bright.