Graduation: Are parties necessary?

Last week, 1,696 former students of Kigali Independent University (ULK) were awarded degrees in different disciplines at a colourful ceremony held at the university premises in Kigali. 
Most people believe it is necessary to spend on food and drinks to celebrate a graduand’s academic achievement. The disagreement, however, is about  the cost. /Timothy Kisambira
Most people believe it is necessary to spend on food and drinks to celebrate a graduand’s academic achievement. The disagreement, however, is about the cost. /Timothy Kisambira

Last week, 1,696 former students of Kigali Independent University (ULK) were awarded degrees in different disciplines at a colourful ceremony held at the university premises in Kigali. 

After the official event, most graduates concluded the celebration with graduation parties. However, others did not hold any parties opting to have a low profile get-together with their families at home. While others just attended the graduation ceremony and that was it.  

To have or not to have a graduation party is a question many people grapple with around the graduation time. Critics wonder whether it is worth throwing a party worth millions of francs when the next day you will be on the street jobless and uncertain of the future. But proponents of the graduation parties equally have strong views in favour of celebrating what they call a major milestone in one’s life. Why would someone who has toiled through university and managed to graduate feel guilty about celebrating with all those who were apart of his or her journey to acquiring a Degree. 

Arguments for celebration

“A graduation party or ceremony is not only for the graduate, it is for the whole community that took part in the success of the student graduating. We look at the student as the pride of his entire community which played a role in his success. In return, the graduate is expected to give back to his/her community after getting employment,” says Eric Nzayisenga, the father of a graduate who held a party in his son’s honour, at a hotel Remera. 

For Nzayisenga, though the party takes them back financially, it is worth it because everyone who got to play a role in the academic life and development of the graduate shares in the joy of the event.

Kamasa Peter, another graduate, sees his graduation as an achievement that needs to be celebrated. 

“I am glad to be a graduate because it has made me a better person. It took a lot of effort and sacrifice and is therefore a good reason to celebrate,” Kamasa says. 

On the evening after his graduation, Irankunda Theoneste threw a party at a friend’s house that featured his fellow graduates. The party’s theme was to celebrate the years they had spent buried in books over the four years.

“The reason for graduation parties is to sort of wipe our brows after the long years of hard work. We may be uncertain of the future but that should not stop us from being proud of our achievements. Being a degree holder is not a small achievement,” Irankunda said, adding that the biggest part of the bill was footed by most of the attendants.

Arguments against

But even as some graduates choose to celebrate the day, others treat graduation as something ordinary that should not call for lavish celebration parties.

When she graduated two years ago from the then National University of Rwanda in Butare, Anita Kanzayire did not even hire a gown for the official ceremony. The uncertainty of what awaited her would not allow her to spend on such luxuries.

“At graduation, some students look at it as the end of the struggle. They blow so much money in one day and forget that tougher times wait ahead. They blow money in the name of celebrations and leave nothing to help them in the hunt for a job. There is need to be a little modest in the merry making, putting into consideration your financial strength,” Kanzayire argues.

She says that while some are being loud about their first degrees, others are quietly pursuing higher levels of education.

“When I graduated, I was cash strapped and wanted to resume school to pursue studies in ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). It would not have been wise for my family to spend the money on a party and then postpone my studies citing financial problems. 

I did not look at graduation parties as a once in a life time event like most of my peers. It never is, but there is usually a lot of social pressure at the time and a lot of influence that could force you do things you didn’t want to,” Kanzayire quipped.

During his time in Rwanda as a lecturer in a private university, Elias Odoobo, noted that majority of the most excited students during graduation were first degree graduates. He said the higher they went up the education scale, the less excited they became.

“When most people graduate with their first degree, they are more excited than those who graduate with masters’ degree or PhD. The first degree holders tend to be more excited compared to the others probably because the others have come to realise that graduation doesn’t really mean much.”

Though he long ceased to be a lecturer, Odoobo advises graduates to be a little future-oriented and not be loud about the past. According to him, previous achievements count when one has reaped fruits from them.

“Rather than have numerous parties celebrating graduation and completing school, graduates should remember that all is not done, the hard stage begins after graduation. The hard part is getting your applications through to as many firms as possible. The hard part is trying to reach out to employers who may doubt you,” Odoobo notes.

Whether the graduation is marked with or without a party, some will argue it doesn’t make it lesser or take away its glory. But others will never consider it to have enough glory if it doesn’t come with a party. The question, however, is: “Are the parties overrated?

What do you think of parties?

Donatilla Ruremahe, Doctor/dean school of nursing and midwifery

I think graduation parties are good but one should not go beyond their means. Those who have the means can celebrate. The problem is the cost you incur while celebrating. You can have dinner with family and friends if you cant afford a big party. 


Julius Niringiye, a student

Parties are a waste of time and resources. Instead of making for me a party, you are better off giving me the money as start-up capital. You could also buy me a laptop to use while searching for a job or develop my innovative skills.


Edison Mugabo, a businessman

If you have several qualifications — diploma, degree and PhD — and you have ever held a graduation party, please save us from any more parties because they have lost meaning.


Verena Nishyirimbere , a student

A party is worth it because it is not easy to complete school. People go through hardships to get tuition and other necessities, so if one successfully completes, why not celebrate?


Telesphore Nsimyumugaba, a student 

By making a party, one feels appreciated for the efforts they put in during their studies. I would never fault any parent who throws a party for their children who have graduated. It also inspires the young siblings to work hard so that they are honoured.

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