(Photo courtesy of Juliung Julius)
By Wambui Mwaura
Graduation is a special life event that many people look forward to. It is understandable that after the hustling and bustling of campus life; burning the midnight candles, hopping between classes and generally going through the vigor of higher education academic life, that one would want to celebrate the culmination of the academic journey. A highly acclaimed diploma is thus the ultimate prize, and worthy of celebration. It is a joyful time in the lives of students, and they look forward to celebrating it with family, friends and well-wishers. Graduation spells a sigh of relief, and marks an end to the constant financial outlay fees entails. This is true for parents and guardians or even students who pay their own fees. For the fact that it is a one-off affair, many parents and guardians feel it is warranted to splash huge sums of money on parties in celebrating their children during this time, which represents a huge milestone in their lives.
While some are able to go out of their way to cater for this event, the reality is that not everyone is able to afford extravagant parties. These expenditures usually include: exclusive red carpet dinner parties, photography, new clothing, transport for their extended families and community members among many others. Just like any other big occasion, marketers, event planners and service providers are the biggest gainers. This is why they would never relent in pushing these big ostentatious party narratives to students, thereby creating a kind of situation where students are in fear of missing out. It usually leaves the less privileged students with feelings of inadequacy and pressure for not being able to keep up with the Jones, and even causing some to fall into depression.
In Daystar graduation groups for example, these planners, in the guise of student/entrepreneurs, step up to offer their services to fellow students for things like graduation dinner gowns, make-up services, graduation photo services and many others. “As a graduate of the class of 2022, I [had] a chance to market the products of a business I started in 2020 to my fellow graduating students, and I am so glad to say that my business income has grown by 10%”, says Mercy Kasalu, the CEO of Mercelina Collections, and a Daystar University 2022 graduating student (Public Relations Major). She, like many others, benefitted from the fear of missing out this occasion created among her peers.
The current economic crisis facing Kenya is something that can no longer be ignored, and households are tightening their belts, spending the scarce money meagerly on only essential commodities in order to meet basic needs. Needless to say that some families haven’t the wherewithal to cater for special occasions like big graduation parties. It is no secret that many students are facing the brunt of these harsh economic times, and coming up with the graduation fees alone proves to be a huge challenge for them to talk more of extravagant parties. This makes me wonder; are mass graduation parties something worth considering?
Part of the concept of mass weddings is to enable financially constrained couples to celebrate their love at a low budget. For others, it’s just about being financially prudent and not wanting to spend huge sums of money on a day’s event. The same concept can also be applied to students who are not in a position to splash huge sums of money for the graduation occasion. Maybe mass graduation parties should be something worth considering by event planners and service providers in the spirit of inclusivity. Ultimately, everyone deserves to have a memorable graduation celebration, and it should not be dependent on how deep one’s pocket is.
The proponents who are for big parties and huge celebrations might not agree with this. Some of them would argue that they saved for years in order to make it a memorable day to celebrate themselves, for a huge milestone in their lives. That is also true, because no one gets to set a standard of how anyone should celebrate their big day. The parting point is that everyone should feel celebrated, and no one should have to endure the feeling of inadequacy because of financial constraints. Mass graduation parties might indeed be the answer, and probably the next frontier for school party planning. This should be a call to duty for event organizers to take this up as a new business venture. Over to you event organizers.