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Student Graduation Speech of 2017

Sait Matty Jaw, who completed his master’s degree this year, held the Student Graduation Speech for an assembly of academic and administrative staff in the University Hall. He currently works as an administrative officer at the University of Gambia, and engages in social activism focusing on human rights and gender equality. Below is a transcript of his speech.

Sait Matty Jaw delivering the Student Graduation Speech of 2017

UIB Student Graduation Speech June 2017

By Sait Matty Jaw

Dear Professors, Staff, Honoured Guests, Families and Fellow Graduates

On behalf of the graduating class of 2017, I say welcome to everyone and thank you for celebrating this special day with us.

Reminiscing about our time here as students of the Social Science faculty at UIB there are a plethora of words that can be used to highlight the events, trials and our feelings. I will try to sum it all by saying we thought of ourselves in the right way.

Two years ago, each one of us made the firm decision to pursue a graduate degree course in our beloved university. I bet in the middle of it; we wanted to give up, we wanted to pack our books and bags and go home. Some have done that. Honestly, that would have been an easier choice, but we stuck through it all, thick and thin. So for what lies ahead, I challenge you, and I encourage you to do the same.

Today we are gathered here to celebrate our success. One we can raise our heads high for we have overcome all the challenges life threw at us in the past two years. It has not been easy, but we have reached the end of this hurdle. It is also the beginning of a new one, and I want to encourage you never to relent. I want to encourage you to use the same spirit that you have shown, the sacrifices you have made, the sleepless nights you have endured, this I promise you my friends it is our ticket to our next destination.

Some of us came to this great university with expectations, high or low but graduating today, tells me only one thing that our expectations have been met, and the ball has been thrown at us to transform our lives, our families, communities, and humanity in general. Hence, what is needed today more than ever is for each one of us to think about ourselves in the right way.

Education they say is the key to success; I add that a transformative education is a candle that will light our paths when darkness shows its ugly face. It is the key that will open the doors of despair. It is the key that strengthens hope, and this is the education UIB provided in this beautiful city of Bergen.

At UIB I have met great people and individuals that have inspired me to a greater length. One of those is my classmate and comrade Bheki. Bheki was, in fact, the first real friend I got here in Bergen four months after my arrival. Indeed it was this university that brought us together. Bheki is an old soul with many layers, and like many old souls he has a habit of speaking in quotes and phrases and I quote, “Life is a complex phenomenon for some and others it is a walk in the park.”  For us, it was a walk in the classrooms, reading halls, libraries and the social events we organize to bond, and to start everlasting friendships.

I am proud to say that today, we have grown, we are different from the person we were when we first got here. We have transcended into new humanity that appreciates diversity. Today, I do not consider myself only as a Gambian for Bangladesh has touched me, Norway, Ghana, Uganda and most importantly tiny Swaziland. No, not Switzerland, Swaziland. That is where Bheki comes from.

It was our life journeys that got us here. To some it just happened to others, it was a matter of life and death. For me, it was both.

This very month two years ago, I was planning my exit from Gambia due to political persecution. Today I am returning home with a load of life lessons in my already overweight luggage. One lesson that Norway has taught me while seeking refuge here from political persecution and abruptly uprooting my whole life is that in the middle of chaos things have a way of working out. This is one life lesson I consider very valuable, and one I hope you share with me.  

I came here as a Student at Risk. This was made possible for me and many others some of whom like Bheki who cannot return home due to political prosecution by Norwegian students (SAIH and NSO) and the beautiful people of Norway. I want to use this opportunity to show my appreciation to all the people behind the student at Risk and the Quota scheme that have made it possible for many to get an education. Although, it is rather unfortunate that Quota as we know it is no more, we are still hopeful that new schemes will emerge to support the less privileged. I strongly believe that through such initiatives of solidarity, we will grow and advance humanity for all.

The big question for many of us now is what we are going to do next. For some of us, we might decide to take a walk in the park; others will decide to get married and start a family like the many of my classmates who have already implemented family policies while collecting data for their thesis. I am proud to say that some are graduating today with double degrees.

I say to you right here whether you decide to take a walk in the park or go for that Ph.D. or your dream job always think about yourself in the right way. See yourself as the reflection of the next person sitting next to you on the bus. Or that starving kid somewhere,  the homeless person that you passed by on your way to work, or the women that continue to endure suffering due to a male-dominated society, or the millions of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean seeking a better life somewhere.

The success we are celebrating today was conditioned by the amount of risk we were willing to take, but also by the friendship and the cultural exchanges we shared. I add the many different foods we experienced here: the pinnekjøtt and fårikål been my favorite.

Before we close this chapter in our lives and start the next one, it is rightly important to thank all the people that have been there for us along the way. To all our families for your love and guidance throughout the years. To our professors, you have done your part. To the administrators like our amazing Denise that took care of us with love, we say Tusen Takk.

Maybe a decade from now we will not remember some of the theories we learned in class, but we will remember the love we shared here. And at the end of the day, it is this love for us, our friends, our university and humanity that will make the difference in our lives. We must continue to nurture a love for our world today with all its challenges, needs it more than ever before.

I do not promise you an easy journey nor am I assuming that it will be the same for everyone, but it is up to each one of us to make our dreams walk, it is up to each one of us to keep pushing and push harder. At the end of the day, if we all do that, from our various locations, in Africa, Europe, America Asia, Latin America or wherever one might be at the time, humanity will win.

To conclude, I will once again quote my friend, whom I wish can soon rather than later return to a democratic Swaziland. And I quote “If it is not us who are learning from our experiences, then others shall learn from our lives, and they will become better than us.”

Gratulere and Congratulations