The significance that a graduation ceremony holds in any student’s life cannot be described in words. Every student dreams of this day. The idea of walking up the stage upon announcement of one’s name to collect their credential in front of friends and colleagues, and most importantly, parents, is a defining moment.
Many schools in Rwanda, and others all over the world, with kindergarten, primary, and secondary levels, celebrate the achievements of their learners after completing a transition level of education.
Examples are; kindergarten going to primary one, primary six going to senior one, senior three (ordinary level) going to advanced level (senior four to six), and senior six going to university and so forth.
The significance of graduation ceremonies
Educators believe that children change, grow and develop so much during their time in school, so graduation ceremonies are a great way to celebrate all this.
A graduation ceremony usually includes a small presentation, followed by learners collecting their certificates. Some families also like to have parties to celebrate the achievement after the ceremony.
Students celebrate on graduation day. File.
Nelson Mukasa, the executive director of Children and Youth Sports Organisation in Rwanda, says these graduation ceremonies are recognition of the effort and dedication the students put towards the different levels they completed.
For instance, when it comes to college graduation, it marks the students’ next step; the beginning of their independent lives after school.
Celebrate every graduation
Mukasa says although some people do not understand the importance of graduation ceremonies, one should never underestimate their significance, as every student’s journey towards graduation is filled with challenges.
Ronald Wandira, the head of the humanities department at Riviera High School and year leader—advanced level—at Rwanda Education Board (REB), says nursery school graduation ceremonies are gaining popularity in Rwanda, adding that three and four-year-olds graduating from pre-school is now a trend.
He says that high school graduation ceremonies are still new to Rwandan culture, but kindergarten, primary, and of course, university graduation ceremonies, have been taking place for years.
“Children do look cute dressed up in mini graduation gowns and it definitely makes for some really special photographs. Graduation ceremonies create lovely memories for the family,” he says.
He says they are also a great way to mark children’s transition from one level to another.
He says that nursery graduation ceremonies are great for children’s confidence.
However, Wandira points out that some parents and guardians worry that a nursery graduation ceremony might be daunting for their children, who are aged just four or five.
This, he says, shouldn’t be something to worry about as even though children might be a little bit anxious, like they would when starting school, these experiences are great for their confidence and personal development.
Diana Nawatti, the head teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kibagabaga, Kigali, shares the same view.
She says that in one way or another, these ceremonies help boost a student’s potential, employability and ability to realise dreams.
“Graduation ceremonies should be taken seriously because they help learners gain positive thought patterns, confidence, and good behaviour, and they learn to communicate better, which is all important,” Nawatti says.
Educationists believe that graduation ceremonies are normally intended to be fun and memorable for learners and their families. If they are talked about as a celebration, students will not be nervous about them.
Mukasa says a graduation ceremony marks an important transition period in every student’s life, therefore, it’s a chance to reflect on their journey.
Wandira says that listening to their teachers praising them and collecting their credentials in front of their families is a rewarding experience.
“Parents can frame the graduation photographs and certificates to create long-lasting memories,” Wandira says.
Wandira adds that celebrating children’s achievements at any level of education is great for their self-esteem, and it also teaches them about transitions and completing different milestones in life.
Graduation ceremonies, he says, teach learners about change as they move to a new chapter of their life.
“Apart from that, they teach young people that change can be a positive experience, which is really important. A graduation ceremony gives them the mindset that they can graduate again in the future,” Wandira says.
Although graduation from university may seem a long way ahead, Wandira says a nursery, primary and high school graduation does create determination to make it happen again.
Alpha Arsene Marara, an ICT specialist at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says kindergarten and primary graduation ceremonies help lift children’s aspirations.
He says that these graduation ceremonies represent the first milestone in a child’s educational journey, so celebrating helps them learn and understand how important their education is.
He adds that although it may not seem like they have achieved much academically at such a young age, in truth, nursery and primary school help develop many skills, which they need during the next stage of their education.
“Praising them for these achievements will encourage them to do their best throughout their educational journey. It is also one way of bringing parents, teachers, and students together, which is very important as far as education is concerned,” Marara says.
Wandira adds that these ceremonies in general tend to have an emotional effect on graduates’ loved ones.
In fact, he notes that at some of these ceremonies, teachers get to discuss and share children’s progress with their parents.
“All of this is bound to pull at the parents’ heartstrings. It may also be their opportunity to find out how their child behaves away from home and how they interact with other people,” he says.
Elie Munezero, Youth Friendly Centre coordinator - Gikondo
I believe such ceremonies and many others should be encouraged in all educational institutions. In fact, schools should carry them out for every class so that all students get a chance to celebrate their academic steps.
Diana Nawatti, Head teacher Mother Mary Complex School - Kibagabaga
It’s one way of bringing together teachers, parents and students. In case there is any problem or issue, teachers or parents can air them out so that they work together as a team on the best approach to help the learners, which will ensure their success.
Alphonse Habimana, Tutor
These, and other activities, help break the monotony of being in class all the time. It gives students a picture of how things are done practically and the benefits that come with them.
Victoria Uwizeyimana, Public Relations Officer
In higher learning levels, graduation ceremonies can be an opportunity for participants to connect with different institutions. This is because the invited guests sometimes share opportunities they have at their companies or organisations.