Filled with singing, dancing, and celebration, graduations are a lively part of Malawian culture even at preschool age. As we pulled into the ceremony, there were hundreds of parents, teachers, and students gathered to witness this exciting occasion. Over 18 preschools were in attendance with 200 children who will now be moving to Standard 1 (First Grade) at Primary School in September. Upon request from the villages, VIP supported all preschools in attendance making this graduating class possible. Our group was directed to sit with the chiefs of the villages in a highly respected front row tented area. The MC then invited us along with the chiefs from the villages to get a glimpse into what the students were learning during this past year.
We were brought into a crowded room with different sections representing various areas of teaching and learning. For example, there was an outdoor playing area, creative art area, block and building area, music and instrument area along with others. The children beamed with excitement as they demonstrated their new skills learned over the past year at each station. By observing, we saw the well-rounded approach taken by these preschools. As we made our way back to our seats, a play or “drama” began in the center of the event. There were two men dressed up speaking loudly in Chichewa as the crowd roared with laughter. The translation of the play was hard for me to follow; however, the Malawians definitely appreciated their humor. After their performance, each preschool was invited up to the microphone to show case what they learned.
I was surprised to see each school represented in this way. Back in America, a group this large would typically be addressed as one group. Malawian culture has a way of making you feel individually noticed and appreciated. As the preschools came forward, the children presented a skill they learned. Some recited their ABCs into the microphone, counted as a group from 1 to 100, while others sang songs together. After each group, the DJ played music and the crowds would break out into a dance including the MC. Following the 18 preschools that were presented, speeches were given from Mwalabu and Liz. The last stage of the graduation was to hand out certificates to each student; however, everyone decided the ceremony went on for too long. Instead, they brought up two students from each preschool to represent making the flow more manageable. As the ceremony came to a close of course the Malawian way called for more celebrating by sharing Obama bread (named after our former president) and drinking Coca Cola. Sharing this joyful occasion with the Malawian community reminded me how important it is to celebrate every accomplishment in life no matter how big or small.