Virtual Graduation: Ceremony of the New Normal
In the Philippine school calendar, the months of March and April are usually much awaited by the students and parents of the graduating class. Whether it’s in kindergarten, grade school, high school, or college, the feeling of accomplishment and pride is contagious. And then the coronavirus pandemic happened.
Toga rentals, make-up appointments, restaurant reservations, pre, and post-grad pictorials were all abruptly halted.
However, it was not only the Philippine school calendar that was affected. As lockdowns stretched longer across the globe, schools abroad were also experiencing the same thing. It’s an understatement to say many were very disappointed but nonetheless understood that lockdowns have to be imposed.
Some schools opted to send the diploma at a later time when the post office was again in operation. But human resilience is amazing. It was not long before we saw many schools doing their own improvised graduation while adhering to the new normal safety protocols.
During the early weeks of the pandemic in the Philippines especially at provinces where there were no reported Covid-19 cases yet, schools already practiced social distancing. Students were required to wear face masks while receiving their diplomas. Some schools, however, chose to have a “drive-by graduation”, where cars are allowed to drive by the parking lot and a school authority would be on standby handing out diplomas and taking photos of the student in the car.
As the pandemic worsened over the next few weeks, schools then resorted to innovative ways on how to hold graduation.
The student’s photo would be displayed on an iPad taped to a robot’s face and “bow” before a non-existent audience. Students and parents were only allowed to watch virtual graduation online. In recent months with the pandemic in full blast, physical presence in school has become non-existent. Zoom video conferencing has become a popular medium of communication. Batch valedictorians delivered their speeches online while the entire batch watched online. Diplomas were either sent by mail or through digital means.
So much has changed within a few months. Despite the continuous rise of Covid-19 cases around the world, one can only hope that there would be a vaccine soon so things could get back to how it used to be. Wishful thinking indeed.