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2014 Valedictorian Speech

At the Belgium Campus graduation, we had the honour of bestowing Robert Rodgers with his Bachelors degree of Computing with the distinction, Suma Cum Laude. Being the Top Graduate, it was only fitting that Robert deliver the Valedictorian Speech, one which was both inspiring, humbling and triumphant:

"Honourable board members, directors, delegates, lecturers, guests, parents, other family members, relatives, friends and fellow graduates, a warm welcome to the graduation ceremony.

First of all I thank our Heavenly Father for having blessed and carried us up to now and who will do so onward. We give Him all the thanks and praise He deserves. Secondly, I thank all our parents who raised us and supported us all the way. Thirdly I thank the management and lecturers of the Belgium Campus for their love and support, and their patience with us. Finally, thank you to all fellow students and graduates - you know that your work and presence are vital to the existence of the Campus.

While I was looking for a place to study further I noticed that some courses offered by universities seem to include IT only as an afterthought, with the main focus being on something else. Or courses which were purely theoretical with little practical work involved. But then a relative told me about the Belgium Campus, which specialises in IT. The Belgium Campus has offered me exactly what I was looking for: a career in software development.

I remember when I first enrolled; there were plenty of students in the class with me. As time went by their number steadily decreased as the exams attacked. By the third year, only a few of us survived. As the end of the war drew near, we had what was for me one of the more memorable courses - Software Engineering, offered by Mr Williams. It was as much about time management and handling a large workload as it was about programming principles and data structures. The final project, which took 8 weeks to complete, had frequently changing requirements and new features being introduced at the last minute. It was perhaps the most accurate simulation of a real job that I have experienced in a course.

Practical training is a very important aspect of education that is often neglected in universities. It is not your ability to write tests or to memorise the correct answers that will determine your success in a career. While theoretical knowledge is important, it cannot fully compensate for practical experience in performing tasks at work. The campus has provided excellent opportunities for us in this matter through their in-service training programme, ensuring that we would be well prepared for the work environment to come.

I was very blessed and privileged to have done my in-service training in Belgium, where I worked at the KHLim with another student from my class, Gerhard Willemse. There were many things that I have learned in Belgium - one of the first was how to ride a bicycle in the snow. We arrived in the middle of winter coming from the South African summer, and it was almost like entering another world. Belgium is a very beautiful country, and although we only had bicycles as our chief form of transport for the year, it allowed us to appreciate the scenery and the experience.

When we arrived at the KHLim we were introduced to Mr Awouters and his team at the [ED+ict] research group, which specialises in implementing ICT in education. They were just starting a large project called Skillville, which is a web-based e-learning platform for schools and provides educational game packages. We were involved in developing the platform from scratch, and during that time we have probably learned more than in any of our programming courses. While the courses had certainly helped to prepare us, we felt as if we were learning everything again from the start.

The Skillville project turned out to be more than just a programming challenge. While doing research for my thesis I have discovered that some South African schools also show interest in such a system to use in their classrooms. This made me realise that there are not only opportunities abroad, but also a lot of unexplored potential in South Africa in the area of ICT.

One of the claims made by the campus, that no other university makes, is that all graduates are employed. While this may seem too good to be true at first, especially considering how difficult it is to find a job, in my experience they have certainly kept their word. Only a few days after I landed returning from Belgium, I was employed. Everyone in my class that I still have contact with has also been employed, even before graduating. So on behalf of all the graduates I thank our Heavenly Father, for making this possible, and the Belgium Campus team, for their dedication and support over the years.

In conclusion I would like to conclude. Thank you."