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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Exciting End of Secondary School

Hanging with Thabo and his best friend
Last year I promised my brother Thabo that if I stayed in Lesotho, I would attend his Form E Farewell. This is the local equivalent of a graduation ceremony; however, students finishing secondary school do not get a diploma as part of the ceremony. Typically the ceremony occurs just before the students begin writing their nationalized exams. If they pass these exams they will get a certificate showing they have completed secondary school. Graduation ceremonies are reserved for tertiary and university educations.

I was coming to the ceremony from the Peace Corps training village, so Thabo had arranged for one of his teachers to greet me and to store my backpack safely in the staff room for the duration of the event. Miraculously, my host mother, ‘M’e ‘Masekila arrived just after I took my seat and we were able to sit together.

Reading the program, I was surprised to see my brother was giving a speech!
As I looked at the program, I was both filled with pride and annoyed. My brother was giving a speech but had not told me about it! I had to learn it when I saw his name in the program. My pride only continued to grow when the Form E Boys Choir began performing and I realized he was leading the choir too!!
The Form E Boys Choir performing...and being led by my brother!
Abuti Thabo giving his speech. 
Abuti Thabo was giving his speech as the Head Prefect. Before his speech, one of the female prefects gave a short speech in English. Thabo’s speed was in Sesotho and, honestly, blew me away. He spoke for nearly ten minutes. He was well spoken and articulate throughout and carried a confidence that none of the other students speakers demonstrated. As he addressed the parents, he looked directly at them. When speaking to his teachers, he looked them in the eye. As he approached his peers, he made eye contact with them as well. I was so proud watching him speak with such poise and self assurance.

Later in the ceremony, all the Form E students sang a few songs together on stage. For the final song, they each held a lit candle while they sang. As the song concluded, the students marched off the stage to where their parent or caregiver sat. They gave their candle and a hand written thank you note to their parent. Abuti Thabo gave his candle to ‘M’e ‘Masekila. He had used his stationary to write each of us our own note thanking us for our impact in his life and sharing his love for us. I nearly cried when I read his beautiful words to me.

'M'e 'Masekila with her candle and thank you note from Abuti Thabo.
I wrongly assumed that Thabo’s speech would be my most proud moment of the ceremony. When the principal spoke, however, he asked Thabo to stand and he spoke at length about how my brother was an incredible young man who has overcome numerous challenges to reach this point. He highlighted Thabo’s leadership and how he fully expects amazing things from him in the future.

Towards the very end of the ceremony, my energy was dragging. I had eaten a banana and a small bag of peanuts for breakfast at 6am. It was now 2:30pm and I was waiting for things to finish so we could eat lunch! As we moved into awards, the school gave the top performing student from each class a pin commemorating their success. The school only gives out one award aside from academic achievement. With only that and the national anthem between me and the end of the ceremony, I was zoning out. The principal stood and said that the Leadership Award went to Thabo Molisa!

My hunger disappeared as my host brother walked onto the stage to accept this prestigious award!  His 800 fellow students screamed their approval loudly as I scrambled to get some photos. Then, my host mother joined him on stage. After he hugged our mother, Abuti Thabo spoke to the principal and then gestured for me to join them on stage as well. As I stood, the student body once again erupted into huge applause. The three of us stood together onstage for a few photos before the principal handed the award to my brother. He kissed is and handed it to me with the quiet instructions to give it to our mother.

Thabo hugging 'M'e 'Masekila upon receiving his award. Note the trophy still in the hands of the principal. Yeah, he got a fancy engraved trophy too!!
The short remainder of the ceremony was a blur as I was still awed by how amazing my host brother is. Various parents popped over the congratulate ‘M’e ‘Masekila. When the ceremony ended, my brother stole my camera for some shots with his friends. After lunch, I met a few of his closest friends. Then, he remained at school with his friends while our mother and I headed home. We continued to talk and forth about our joy that Thabo is such an incredible young man.

Still life is not enough to highlight this amazing ceremony-check out the videos!

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