This is a story about the Maranyundo Girls School graduation as told by Sister Ann Fox.
The graduation was scheduled to begin at 10:00. We arrived at 9:45 and saw the girls leaving for the Multi-purpose Hall carrying their gowns. As it seemed that the ceremony wouldn’t get started for a bit, we were invited to have a second breakfast. Around 10:15, a nun came with vestments over her arm with the announcement “Come, We go.”
So we went. The parking lot had a scattering of cars. Graduating students, in white traditional dress and stylish shoes greeted us. They each held tightly to their identity cards, ready for their big day.As they arrived, parents were invited to greet and visit with their daughters, looking lovely in their caps, and wearing their favorite earrings. During the ensuing quiet bedlam of picture taking and greetings, the stage was made ready for the ceremony and sixty chairs were set up.
Soon the graduates reassembled in the back and it was time for the procession. The music was not Pomp and Circumstance but a lively Nigerian pop song with the students doing a peppy little two-step as they came down the aisle two by two.
The Head of School, Sister Juvenal, made a short welcome speech and introduced the special guests, local government officials. I spoke to the graduates, and congratulated them on behalf of the “Boston women” which is how the Maranyundo Initiative is often referred to at the school. I also thanked the teachers and parents for their efforts over the year.
The rest of the program was student-run. There were poems, songs and speeches from the younger students addressed to the graduates. The favorite performance, as judged by the great number of younger brothers and sisters who came up to take pictures, was billed as a drama but in fact was the acting out of international songs from countries across Africa.
After that, the program listed that the granddaughters would present gifts to their grandmothers in the graduating class. It is the custom at the Maranyundo Girls School, for each new student to be given a “mother” from the class above, by virtue of which she also has a “grandmother.” This immediately creates a close sense of family on campus and students instinctively care for and watch out for each other. The granddaughters came out on stage and found their grandmothers and presented them with their gifts. We could then see that these gifts were actually the graduation certificates as each girl held them up for all to see and the crowd cheered for their accomplishments.
At the end of the program, the Mayor got up to say a few words, thanking the school for the completion of the wonderful new assembly hall in which he planned to have a district meeting the following week. Two parents closed with remarks thanking everybody and inviting all 500 guests to the reception.
Without much notice, there was work being done in the back and suddenly the students were carrying cases of Fanta and handing out tin foil “take out” cartons filled with a delicious Rwandan meal. All of the food and drinks were served in about ten minutes. The school cooks did all the cooking and Sr. Constance, the bursar, orchestrated other help that made this huge undertaking go so smoothly.
And there you have it. A graduation without Pomp and Circumstance, but with warmth, family, and a spirit of gratitude and celebration!