Let’s have a conversation about nursery graduation

Although the idea of children being engaged in pompous graduation ceremonies is a contentious one, school heads insist it is one way of grooming ambition in children. Photo | George Katongole

What you need to know:

The issue: 
Nursery graduation
Our view:  
The education sector owes this nation a conversation on the practice of nursery graduation to align it with priorities that do not leave parents feeling the pinch.  

A disturbing consistency has crept and settled in the education sector. Every end of academic year, moans about nursery graduation rent the air as parents assess the validity of this new culture with deep roots. A nursery graduation ceremony usually includes a small presentation, one or two toddlers giving valedictorian speeches, then the children collect their certificates and, finally, pose in gowns and mortarboards as teary-eyed parents take photographs. It’s the perfect education culture with roots in the US.

The term graduation has been used to denote the awarding of degrees since at least the 17th Century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. While we have pre-primary, primary, and two crucial levels in secondary education, it is only nursery that appears to have parents in a knot.
Schools appear to target nursery because at that level parents are susceptible to manipulation for their beloved toddlers. But also, celebrating children’s achievements at nursery school is excellent for their self-esteem, teaches them about transitions and completing different milestones in life.

But life, generally, is not a “ffe tuli embaata ento” rhyme. The economy is much more brittle unlike the soft feathers of ducklings lining up on their way to a puddle. Parents have to put up with fees and all sorts of challenges of life, so their moans about additional fees and “theatrics” of nursery graduation are valid.
This week, parents in Namutumba District in eastern Uganda demanded that authorities ban these graduations. They say they are ripped off in terms of hiring gowns, a band, buying cakes and paying for photography and certificates.

Conservative critics argue that kindergartens are too young to sit exams and receive grades, making such awards meaningless and that it could even damage the will to work for success. Moreover, there are far-reaching impacts of the graduation on toddlers as a parent who fails to afford one would inadvertently damage the psychological wellbeing of their child.
In the absence of a regulatory framework and the death of the Parents Teachers Association, it appears like these moans will only get louder and hurt the mental wellbeing of the frustrated parents and society at large, without much recourse.

But schools can and must still hear the parents out. 
While nursery graduation is enshrined in the Education Act and has enormous benefits, over-commercialisation – where it is used to market private schools rather than for the original purpose – and other approaches drain parents out. An alternative for sobering conversation on what has become a culture deeply ingrained in the education sector is needed.

The education sector owes this nation a conversation on the practice of nursery graduation to align it with priorities that do not leave parents feeling the pinch. 
A school that cares for your child will consider laying the dais for this conversation and not wait for the government to step in because there does not seem like it ever will.