Saturday, June 18, 2016

Form 4 Graduation 2016

It’s that time of year again- Form 4 Graduation! Form 4 is equivalent to 12th grade in America. These students are graduating after completing four years of secondary school. They get a certificate, similar to our diplomas, and then have about a week of review before they take their National Exams (the Malawi School Certificate Examinations-- MSCEs).

This year the graduation preparations started the day before, on Thursday. I was able to teach my double period of Form 3 Physical Science in the morning, but after 9:30am all classes were suspended. The Form 1s were sent to sweep and mop the hall where the ceremony would be held. The Form 2s were already on holiday break after the completion of their National Exams (the JCEs). The Form 3s were kind of milling about, and the Form 4s were rehearsing.

Then the food preparation began. The female teachers and a few of the female students prepared all of the food, for around 90 people.

The next day was Graduation Day, I was told that the festivities would start at 9am. But I remembered last year, so I showed up at school at 9:30am. And I was just in time for... the ongoing preparations. Food was still being cooked outside, and the staffroom was being decorated. I helped wrap the gifts for the student awards and set up the staffroom for the luncheon.

The ceremony started around 11:00am. This year’s Guest of Honour was the Chief of Robeni Village which is very close to my school. Mr. Ajussa, one of our hardworking teachers from school, was the MC. Towards the beginning of the ceremony there were speeches by the outgoing Head Boy(lamenting the lack of toilets at our school, as well as the lack of teacher housing) and the incoming Vice Head Girl. Her speech was one of encouragement for the Form 4s as they embark on their exams.

Our Head Teacher, Madam Kalunga

Outgoing Head Boy, Jimmy

Incoming Vice Head Girl, Evalet

Throughout the ceremony there were student performances, like a gospel choir song, a drama about how Camfed (a local NGO) helps girls to stay in school, poetry, and a choreographed dance to the Amarula song. My favorite had to be the song performed by the Malaria Awareness Club though. Even though the club has not been active this year, the Club President Chisomo wrote a really cool song about how malaria can be prevented, and he performed it with about 10 backup singers. I had only heard his solo version of singing the chorus, but for this version he started rapping facts about malaria in the middle of the song, like how it is spread by the female Anopheles mosquito and is caused by the Plasmodium protozoa. So cool! I tried to take a video, but my camera was not cooperating.

Then the Head Teacher and the Guest of Honour gave out the testimonials. Each student was called up individually to receive their award and pose for a photo. Then family members and friends would run to the other side of the stage to hug them and give them small gifts. The family members were so proud of their students, and it was a really heartwarming experience to watch.

Then came time to give student awards. The awards were chosen by teachers on the Graduation Committee. I had no input at all, but at the last minute I was selected to be the one to hand out the awards. There were awards for Best Overall Student in Academics, Best Behaved, Most Hardworking, Best Dressed (meaning they always adhered to our school dress code) and Most Entertaining/Charming. The students were really pleased to get their gifts, (sandals for the boys and chitenjes for the girls). One student's mother was so happy that her daughter received an award, that she came up as her daughter accepted and started dancing and tossing K20 bills at her to the beat of the music (which PCVs refer to as "chopping the kwatch").

There were speeches by the Head Teacher and Guest of Honor, but they were both in Chichewa so I only caught bits of them. Then we said a closing prayer, and the ceremony was finished. We returned to the school for the traditional luncheon, where we enjoyed the food that the female staff and students had been preparing since yesterday. They served it buffet-style. We had chicken, potatoes, cooked cabbage (my favorite Malawian side dish) and a banana. And Fanta, because it's not a party without Fanta!

Afterward the ceremony, we had lunch and then we took snaps, of course. ("Snaps" are what they call photos here). The kids go crazy when they see a camera. I love their funny poses. Lots of Form 4s were posing, but students from the other Form jumped in to join the fun too.

Me, Madam Phiri, and students from Forms 1-4 posing for our snaps

Form 4s: Elason, Justin, Vincent and (front row) Maxwell

Me with one of my favorite Form 2 students, Evance

Graduation deserves a party, so after the ceremony and food it was time for the disco! I skipped out on this last year, so I decided to check it out this year. I headed over with a group of Form 4 students, but when we got there I was the only teacher present. Kind of awkward. The girls wanted me to dance with them, but I couldn't quite shake my booty as well as them. We had fun though.

Bessie and Loveness, two of my Form 3 students at the disco

The students get their groove on, Malawi-style

Soon the other teachers showed up and quite a few more students came to dance and celebrate. I left around 4:30pm, since it was getting close to sunset. It was a fun day and I really enjoyed hanging out with the students and teachers. As I walked home, I couldn't stop smiling as I looked around at my village, my school, and greeted my neighbors. I'm definitely going to miss Malawi when I leave.

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