Yesterday was graduation day at The Stars International School. Preparations started at 7 AM, with chicken skewers grilled over charcoal fires, benches dragged out of classrooms into the courtyard, garlands and decorative flowers pinned in the trees and bushes, musical instruments tuned and set up on a wooden stage, colorful posters hung all around the inner walls of the school, cases of soft drinks and boxes of cookies brought in to the kitchen.
I got ready and went outside about twenty minutes before the ceremonies started and stopped, jaw dropping.
Imagine almost 600 children, aged 4 to 11, dressed to the nines, the boys mostly in three and two-piece suits, the girls in prom dresses, hair done up in the most elaborate, fantastical African dos, colorful ribbons, pins, barrettes holding tresses, braids, cornrows neatly in place, ruffles socks inside mary-janes, lace-up shoes too big for the boys with their ties slightly sideways.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It was like the tiniest prom I’d ever imagined. Never having been to prom, I have no idea what prom looks like, but I imagine teenagers awkwardly stepping in uncomfortable clothes, self-conscious and sort of confused, which is exactly what these kids looked like.
Each class came up onstage with a presentation, sometimes poems, sometimes songs, and were congratulated by dad. One student read a “student address to the school” and the principal with authoritative, quasi-professional diction.
Dad was onstage, addressing the classes, the students, the parents. He requested a moment of silence to honor the death of one of the ffith grade teachers in mid-year, a teacher who had been stellar and would be sorely missed. He gave a stirring speech to the students and parents, talking about how important being present in your child’s education was for parents, and reminding everyone that these little ones, standing up onstage would one day, not so long from now, be the leaders of this country and of their families and communities.
The top five students of each class were called up and rewarded with certificates of excellence and gifts for the top three.
After all the ceremonies, food was laid out for the parents and the kids, the band played, the kids danced, and I sat there, bowled over by the party, the proceedings, the lace and the taffetas, the ties and th smiles, the little grownups you could almost start to decipher in kids dressed like adults who just wanted to run around and have fun.