December 17, 2007

“Not an ending, but a new beginning…”

Friday was our pre-school graduation in Itipini. (The school year in the southern hemisphere ends before Christmas for summer break.) We had about 15 six-year olds don caps and gowns, march in front of a couple hundred family and community members and receive diplomas from yours truly. The whole ceremony took more than two hours and was one of the most chaotic, joyous, out-of-control, and wonderful occasions I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve never seen so many people in Itipini so happy all at the same time.

It featured dramatic renderings of the Christmas story (with four or five magi – I couldn’t keep them straight), Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Licken (my favorite), all mostly in English, with bits of Xhosa thrown in when the children got flustered.

Apparently, I was supposed to give a keynote address but in typical fashion, I only found out about it when I was typing up the program the day before and saw my name on the draft. In even more typical fashion, I somehow got skipped during the program. Good thing I didn’t spend any time preparing it!

Often when a child walked across the “stage” to get his diploma, his mother would come running out of the crowd and either pick up the child and swing him around or start dancing and stomping wildly. The other people in the audience clapped and did that thing with their tongues I think is called ululating.

Before the children received their diplomas, they had to address the crowd – in English – and say their name, who their parents are, and what they want to be when they grow up. There were a lot of future teachers, nurses, soldiers, lawyers, and doctors. Hopefully, their family – with help from the African Medical Mission – will be able to come up with the money to pay for the school fees, books, and uniforms these children will need to continue their education.

I must have taken about 250 pictures on Friday. Here are only a few.

The children, with the help of their mothers, got dressed up in nice dresses or slacks and shirts we apparently have hanging around somewhere.

Then, they put on their robes and sashes.

They came in, not marching, but dancing and swaying.

Like graduates everywhere, they looked bored waiting for things to begin.

Our pre-school teachers Ncediwe (left) and Nthantisi.

I led the graduates in a couple songs. This is “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
It’s a popular event, involving the whole community.

Chicken Licken and friends in an off-stage moment.


A proud graduate.

Some of the mothers celebrating the achievement of their children.

One size apparently does not fit all.

The post-graduation celebratory banquet.


Anonymous said...

I'd like if one sie did fit all.That would be a new beginning!