Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Upendo's Class Seven Graduation!!

Saturday, September 13th was graduation for Class Seven and Form Four from Usa River Academy. TFFT had one graduate from Class Seven, Upendo Estomi. The Tanzania Educational System has three different levels. The first is basic level which consists of pre-primary school (the equivalent of Preschool and Kindergarten) for Baby Class and Pre-Unit. The second portion of Basic Level is Primary School, which takes seven years to complete, beginning with Class One and ending with Class Seven. After the completion of primary school, students head onto Secondary School, which takes four to six years to complete depending on the capacity of the school. Most commonly, Form Four is the last year of schooling for the secondary level. The third, and highest, level of education is Tertiary when students will attend university or vocational training.

Usa River Academy put on quite the show for graduation! They hosted families and guardians on campus for a day-long celebration filled with music, dancing, singing, and speeches.

Upendo had requested a cake for graduation.. lucky for me (and the kids) I was able to find a couple boxes of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix in town. I’m not so sure how I would have been able to pull off a cake for 32 kids from scratch. The three cakes turned out wonderfully – every last crumb and drop of icing was eaten by the kids.

While most were in good spirits for the day, there were a couple who didn’t seem quite themselves. Dickson Ephrahim and Dickson Simon, two of the most outgoing and attentive students in our scholarship program at URA, were not interested in spending time together with everyone or the cake. This really surprised me until I stepped back and put myself in their shoes. They had just sat through an entire day of graduation ceremonies, first of all, and then secondly they had to watch all of their friends and classmates spend time with their families, mothers, father, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, and cousins – the whole deal. I felt terrible once I realized what they were probably struggling with throughout the day and I can’t imagine how tough those days must be for our scholarship kids.

At the end of the celebration, Upendo packed up her things to head back to Good Hope Orphanage where she’ll spend her time until Form One begins next year. A couple of her friends showed up to graduation towards the end of the day and helped her with her things. Good Hope is about two miles up the same road as URA, so all eight of us piled into the TFFT car. As we pulled out of the driveway of URA, all of her friends started to belt out a song for Upendo. One of my favorite things here is how Tanzanians have a song, or make one up, for every occasion. It was the most amazing performance I think I’ve ever seen, maybe it was because we were all in such a small space and their voices were so powerful, but really I think its because it was so great to see her interacting with her friends, watching them give her support and congratulations for her huge accomplishment of graduating from primary school.

1 comment:

Patrick said...


It sounds like you are doing wonderful things in Tanzania. Wish I could visit, but I am glad this blog got passed onto me so I can read about the difference you are making and the lives you are touching. Hope you are doing well.

- Patrick