Mao’s Note to New Graduates, You’re a Graduate, Now what?


Guest Post I By Norbert Mao – The first time I graduated my parents threw the mother of all parties. It was the massive garden of Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja- a stone’s throw from Wilson Avenue where we lived. No tents. The skies sparkled with blinking stars. A full moon hang above. Hundreds of guests joined in the fête. A towering steel structure carried the cake. Fifteen pieces in all. Each shaped like a book. Five subjects for each of the the three years of law school. Being the first born my parents decided on an overkill.

There were many reasons. I parted company with my biological mother at eight months. Many hands… and hearts nurtured me with love. Sometimes the love was tough. I started school at a village primary school which stopped at P6. Zig zaged my way to Namilyango via Wairaka and entered Makerere law school among the star A level candidates. Watching Crown Court on Uganda Television drew me to the law.

But in Makerere I spent most of my time reading Harvard Classics! I also feasted on leftist revolutionary literature. I decided to join students politics. First as Chief Fresher of Mitchell Hall and later as Secretary for Mass Mobilization, Mitchell Hall Village. Then in 1990 I plunged into the big league by deciding to run for Guild President. I won the race against key contender Noble Mayombo. A most worthy opponent I must add.

During my graduation party I received an earful about the challenges that await fresh graduates. As a law graduate, I would have to immediately join the Law Development Centre for one year to obtain the Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. A full year of more schooling stood between me and the dreaded field. But today I just want to say some general things that will give you hope in the future and inoculate you against fear of the unknown.

You are as sailors. You need a roadmap and road signs lest you lose your way. I have some suggestions. These suggestions I have culled from my readings. Some I have heard from others. Some are a result of my reflections on my own experiences in life.

My first piece of advice is that your new qualification is a charge to keep. It should give you a feeling of responsibility towards society. Don’t look down on those who have skills not backed by paper certificates. Remember, a degree is a certificate of exposure, not a guarantee of infection. At the end of university, some people get infected with real knowledge, others only get mild cases, while others are completely immune! I have met many with papers but no skills to get anything done thoroughly.

It is said that education is what remains after you’ve forgotten what you learnt in school. So there are things you should do notwithstanding your papers. Identify your unique gift. According to Emerson: “Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. He inclines to do something which is easy for him and good when it’s done, but which no other man can do. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base”. Each of you is unique. In the same way that all of us have unique fingerprints we are all different. George Washington who became the first President of the United States of America was a Surveyor. He became a great general, revolutionary and founding president of the new nation. The great author Somerset Maugham first studied Medicine before embarking on an illustrious writing career. The great evangelist St. Peter Started off as a Fisherman.

We have a duty to search humbly and prayerfully for the place where we fit into the divine pattern. Do not worry about what you haven’t got. Find out what you have.

Remember the story of the Greek millionaire who was denied a job as a janitor because he couldn’t write. After succeeding he told journalists who asked him to write his memoirs. “If I could write I’d have been a janitor.”, he told them.


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