The sun is peaking through the clouds after a long week of rain. Pouring through the gates of Smith Secondary Campus are hundreds of parents, siblings, guardians and one particularly proud Bibi (grandmother) named Apatakis. Today is the Form 4 Celebration and Awards Day.
The procession of guests is a never ending flare of fashion, with everyone dressed in their finest clothing, and the charismatic Bibi is at the pinnacle. She is garbed in a golden mtandio (scarf) with an elegant green kilemba (headwear) and a cascading dress peppered with pink and red flowers. A broad smile is planted on her face.
Bibi has always been stylish, and her reason is simple.
“I love myself,” she says, her smile becoming a laugh.
But today it’s not just her style that is a source of pride; more importantly it is her grandson, Johnson.
“Neither of us slept last night,” says Bibi, gesturing to Johnson’s sister, Elinipe, who is also in attendance. “We are very thankful. We depend on Johnson, and his future is bright. He is always there to help me out.”
From the age of two, Johnson was raised by Bibi and his older sister in a two-room compound, made from mud and sticks. For Bibi and Elinipe, today is not just a celebration of Johnson’s graduation, it is also a celebration of the love they share, and how their love has helped shape Johnson into the person he has become.
“We sacrificed a lot to help Johnson study,” says Elinipe. “I was there to offer moral support, advice and to pray.”
“I told him – ‘don’t give up because you are the best, be a believer.'”
Elinipe was right to encourage Johnson. Last year, he was top of his class in Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and History.
“When I was young,” says Johnson. “Bibi and my sister helped me out a lot – they were not ready to lose hope.”
Bibi taught Johnson the importance of caring for others. Neighbours from the local community will often come to Bibi for advice about their problems.
“Growing up,” says Johnson. “Our house was full of laughter and love.”
As the beginning of the celebration ceremony approaches, Johnson rejoins his peers while Bibi and Elinipe assume their seats in the assembly hall.
The stage features enormous threads of blue and orange silk, dotted with stars. As the school choir begins singing, the 135 Form 4 students enter the hall, walking in two lines, parting the audience through the centre.
Bibi is impressed with the school uniforms, clapping enthusiastically. “They always look so smart,” she says.
The Headmaster, Erespidus Fikiri, addresses the Form 4 students.
“This day is about you and what you have achieved through hard work, determination and moments of creative inspiration,” says Mr Fikiri. “Today is just the beginning, it is where you go from here that matters.”
Awards are presented after the Headmaster’s address, and Johnson is announced as the highest achieving student in Mathematics, topping the entirety of the year level.
Johnson is a hard-working student, something he inherits from his sister. Outside the classroom, he spends thirty hours studying every week. Often he can be found in the library reading books by the likes of Edward de Bono, the famed physician and psychologist.
“I’m looking towards the future now,” says Johnson. “The next step is to become an engineer.”
Another Form 4 student, Semu, takes the stage to give a speech on behalf of his classmates.
“We would like to say a word of thanks to our beloved sponsors and donors,” says Semu. “School founder Mama Gemma, headmaster, level coordinator, teachers, parents and our fellow students.”
Semu continues, “you helped us become a better version of ourselves and everything we achieved is all because of you.”
Finally, the students are applauded individually as they are presented with their certificates.
To conclude, the Form 4 Class of 2019 take the stage, singing: “good bye, good bye, we will miss you, we thank you, good bye!”
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