Dut with Malaak at his graduation.

Malaak’s big day – our first student graduates!

This blog post is part of a series from our founder Dut Bior’s trip to Kenya and Uganda in October 2012.

We flew into Entebbe, Uganda last night and drove to the capital city of Kampala where
we’ll be staying for the next few days. Malaak met us at our hotel and stayed the night
with us so we could all drive to his graduation ceremony together this morning.

We left our hotel at 7am so we’d be able to make it through traffic and to Ndejje
University by 830am, when Malaak needed to be there. At about 825, we made it to the
top of the dirt road leading to the university and found ourselves in a very slow moving
procession of cars heading to the graduation. There were gift peddlers selling flowers
and medallions and even “express photos,” which they took with cameras and printed
on the spot, while families waited in this traffic.

It must have been 2 hours later when we finally started to get close to the graduation
grounds but we still weren’t parked and there were people out of their cars walking
faster than all of our slow moving cars. Malaak decided to get out to find out what was
going on. I was eager to get out with him and get to the graduation – we’d traveled too
far to miss it!- but the others I was with thought it was a bad idea. They didn’t think we’d
be able to find each other or find our driver if we split up, so I was forced to stay in the
slow moving car as my anxiety increased.

We finally parked the car and made it into the graduation about 11am. Fortunately for
us, they seemed to have just started by the time we arrived. Malaak took his seat with
his classmates and the rest of us walked toward the front where the other people with
video cameras were standing.

The ceremony was held outdoors, but just about everyone besides people with cameras
were sitting under a tent of some kind. It was very hot despite the gray clouds in the sky.
We stood under a shady tree part of the time but walked up to the front area pretty often
to see what was going on. A group of performers played a traditional Ugandan song and
danced. It was fantastic.

After some time, it was announced from the podium that they would begin calling
names of the “graduands.” We were a little disappointed to hear that they requested
the student stand up when their name was called, rather than walking up the red carpet
(which was layed out on the grass, leading to the podium. Nevertheless, we were
excited to finally hear Malaak’s name get called.

About an hour later they were still calling names but hadn’t yet called Malaak’s. I looked
in the program at the list of graduates and found that they were still a few full pages
away from his class. Jason, the audio recordist on the film making team, was standing
out by the PA speaker, recording the names as they were called (so the documentary
team would have that recording from Malaak’s graduation).

It had sprinkled a little, earlier in the morning, but just as we were nearing the time for
Malaak’s name to be called, it really started pouring. We had a large umbrella (which we
were using for shade from the sun), but it wasn’t enough to cover us all now that the rain
was falling fast. I ran for cover under the crowded tents. Jason and our driver, Achilles,
used the umbrella to cover the audio recording equipment, so he could continue to
record the student’s names as they were called. 10 minutes later it was raining so hard
that even they had to run for cover.

The rains stopped a little while later and they were still calling names. Fortunately, they
still hadn’t read Malaak’s name and the sun was out again. I took some pictures with
Malaak and everyone except for Jason went to the car to put the gear away. 15 minutes
later he met up with us, after they’d finally called Malaak’s name.

It was a great day for Malaak and I was happy to be with him to share in his success. An amazing moment to see his and our hard work pay off, that his life has been changed so dramatically through the power of education.
He worked hard for his degree and now he’s ready for the next challenge: finding a job!

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