“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the past two years have been the most difficult of my professional career. I imagine most of the faculty gathered here would share that sentiment.” So began Dean Hatim Eltayeb’s stirring speech as the African Leadership Academy community gathered to celebrate and congratulate the class of 2020. This particular cohort joined the academy at the inopportune time of the pandemic and lockdowns, meaning they, like millions of their peers around the world, had the task of figuring out online learning.
“Together we learned new lessons anew. To listen before speaking. To take our conflicts into circles, because in circles there are no opposing sides. For that, and for a great deal more, I am grateful to you.”
Dean Hatim then gave a powerful reminder of what the internet can take from us, even as it gave and allowed classes at ALA to continue in spite of the challenges. The internet today is fast-paced, immediate, endlessly accessible, and ceaseless. This presents a challenge for young people who are coming into it not knowing of how things were before we all had easy online access via a phone.
Under the headline: 3 Nostalgic Nuggets of Wise Uncle Wisdom, the dean outlined some important points for the outgoing cohort to remember:
Since the internet is instantaneous, do slow things.
“Find time to be bored,” the dean said, to bemused chuckles. “Sit quietly. Wonder. Take the time to foster real and lasting connections.”
The internet is constant, so find time to switch off
In today’s world of endless notifications from our smartphones, it can feel like a day never ends. In the times of dialup modems and chatrooms, one would eventually have to switch off from the internet. “Our brains are hardwired for sociality. Especially as adolescents! In my day, if you had a bad day, it could end. You got to have an emotional break. Now? WhatsApp means that fight that began earlier today can continue well into the night.”
You are not your username
“You are not your username. Posting is not work. You live in the world of flesh and blood,” the dean said. How we present ourselves online has flipped around. The days of hacker aliases and personas are behind us. We are all curating a version of ourselves online now, from perfect Instagram photos to TikToks in which we are always happy. However, we live in the real world, which is where we should act and work if we want real change.
The graduation of 2022 featured many beautiful and diverse voices, including many of the outgoing cohort of students. The guest speech was by Jocelyne Muhutu-Remy, the managing director of Spotify, sub-Saharan Africa. The graduation day attendees were also surprised with an appearance by special guest Mr. Eazi, the very talented Nigerian artist, who came at the invitation of his friend and ALA co-founder Acha Leke, who was also present at graduation.
Watch: The ALA Class of 2020 Graduation Day ceremony in full: