A lot of work went into this farewell party and I was quite impressed with how quickly it came together. There was a tent set up in the courtyard of the school, the learners all put on nice clothes and brought their parents. My official duty was “certificate creator” which I was reluctant to do when I first got to site but at this point I have acquiesced. My thoughts were that it would be much better to teach somehow how to make it but I realize now that that sort of thing is way down the line of computer education. I should just make the certificates which really doesn't take me too long and help make the event that much better. Certificates go a long way here so I am happy for my contribution even though a real graphic designer would probably be embarrassed by what I made.
The festivities didn't begin until noon so I had some time on my hands. I spent a good chunk of that time grading papers which was not particularly bad in this instance because many of the learners absolutely crushed it. It was soothing to put stickers on so many papers. With the rest of the time, I had one of the best conversations about teaching and functioning as an outsider here with one of the teachers I had previously worked with at the middle school. We will call him Mr. T because his last name starts with a “T”. Coincidentally, he also happens to be as cool as the character from the A-team but only in terms of education. He is not from this village but has been working here for 3 years and it was really amazing how similar our experiences were even though my level of foreigner-ness is a bit more than his. It was invigorating to talk with him and hear his optimism so I look forward to working more with him next year when I focus more on the middle school.
Eventually, things got underway and just like similar events in the past, it was an exercise in controlled chaos. The learners came out dancing dressed to the nines and dancing in pairs. It was a spectacular the entrance. A rough sequence of what followed next would be: songs, prayers, speakers, more songs, dancing, more speakers, more songs and dancing, certificates, and then another prayer for good measure. I'll drill down a little more now and give my top moments from the celebration.
There were a couple of songs by the learners which were great. Immediately following one of the songs, the man in charge of the local clinic was introduced to say a few words. He is a pretty big figure in the community and is invited to every single school function. The speech he gave today seemed longer than normal. I could understand a few words here and there but could not really grasp the larger idea. During the speech, the learners were all still standing where they were performing which was out in the sun. Suddenly, there was a bit of a commotion. It turns out one of the learners fainted. She was taken inside and given water and soon enough she was fine. Two things, I have never seen someone faint before so that was a life experience and I thought it was funny that the man responsible for preventing something like heat stroke leading to a learner fainting from heat stroke. He can't really be blamed though, there must have been other factors to her passing out, those kids are out in the sun all day. Maybe she was just too excited.
Mr. T's Speech
He gave my favorite speech of the ceremony. Because of our conversation beforehand, he spliced in an English word every now and then which really helped me understand what he was saying. I'm glad he did too because it was all solid gold. The major points were: know your rights and exercise them, have a dream, have a role model, work hard to get what you want. I am really distilling it down here so just trust me that he was much more eloquent. And maybe that sort of thing sounds cheesy to you but these kids don't really here that sort of thing a lot, at least not when I'm around and not from what I can understand, so I am glad somebody said it.
The refreshments on the plates was a mixture of candy, gum,
chips, cheese puffs, cookies, peanuts and raisins.
There was some traditional dancing from the younger learners at the school. I hadn't seen the traditional dancing in a while. It is the biggest display of uniquely Tswana culture that I see in the village. And it is full of culture, I am talking chock-a-block with culture. I wish I could upload a video of some of the dances. There was the cutest little girl trying her hand at some of the dances. Just adorable.
Emotions Run High
There were some seriously emotional times where even I got a little chocked up. At one point, one of the educators gave a speech. Well, she really is THE educator at this school. Although I don't think her methods are particularly effective she makes up for it by working an unbelievable amount. When I first came to the school the time table was outrageous. She was scheduled to teach all but three periods during the entire week. She was teaching 5 or 6 more classes than the next busiest educator. It has since been adjusted but she has still taken on classes from the other teachers. In her speech, she was speaking deep Setswana and speaking it far too fast for me to get anything out of it. But I could see that she was starting to cry and just about everyone gave her their full attention which doesn't happen with every speaker. I can only imagine how proud she must be to see students move on after teaching them for 3 years. I mean I was proud and I only taught them one class for one year.
Afterwards, the awards were handed out and the learners who received awards tried their best not to show how excited they were but it came through anyway. It is nice to see great work rewarded and to see the learners happy about it is even better.
Finally, there was general merriment and a fantastic meal which I devoured. Like I said, it was an excellent day.