The role of parental involvement in their children’s education, progress and success of the same cannot be over emphasized. Parents not only provide financial, emotional and motivational support.
As young five-year-olds lineup in their blue gowns to receive their certificates at Glory Nursery School in Kirangira, Mukono, the excitement cannot be hidden.
Ordinarily, university graduation scenes are what come to most people’s minds but lately, nursery schools are taking the country by storm.
In fact in urban areas, pre-school graduations are an established trend. Outfits, are usually sold for up to Shs50,000 for the “graduates”.
Glory Nursery School was holding the ceremony for the first time. “It’s just a celebration of completing pre-school and their individual development. But mostly it is a very happy day and the start of the next part of the children’s lives,” says the school director Winnie Kimera.
Part of their graduation ceremony was performing songs for the parents. And for Joram Kyazze, his favourite memory was wearing a “hat and gown”, while Regina Nakyejwe expresses a particular enjoyment of the food they were served.
Education Consultant Lindsey Mueller remarked in 2012 that she was fortunate enough to take part in the inaugural graduation ceremony of 32 students at Children of the Nations Nursery School in Lira.
“The pride they (parents) had in their children for completing nursery school was evident. The ceremony lasted more than two hours, and those nursery pupils sat attentively the entire time. Of course they are children, so there was fidgeting, but they sat and listened to each speaker who congratulated them on their success,” Mueller said.
Nursery graduation ceremonies are a great way of marking children’s transition from nursery school to junior school. According to Kimera, this experience is great for children’s confidence and personal development.
She adds that listening to their teachers praising them, and collecting their ‘certificate’ in front of their family is a rewarding experience adding that the graduations teach children about completing different milestones in life.
Not everyone is convinced though. In 2018, Nairobi County in neighbouring Kenya banned graduation ceremonies in all their 229 pre-schools accusing teachers of using such events to swindle parents.
In 2017, commissioner for Special Needs in the Education ministry Sarah Ayesiga talked of plans to ban nursery graduations, “because it abuses the gown, which is used by people who have achieved a reasonable academic level, for example, a degree”.
Parents seem divided on the significance of pre-school ceremonies, with views varying from “nothing beats this experience” to “ridiculous”.
Some parents are in agreement, with one revealing to us she had to fork out Shs70,000 for her daughter’s graduation.
But Enid Kambaale of Bweyogerere says: “In addition to missing a whole day of work, I had to rent a gown at Shs50,000, the school sold tickets at Shs10,000 and there was a group photo that cost Shs10,000. That is too much considering the financial squeeze most parents go through to complete third term school fees. If you do not rent a gown the child will not be allowed in the group photo.”
She stresses that: “Of course we live in an era where there is a real search for rituals and people are trying to make a big deal of even the relatively ordinary aspects of life.”