On 18th November 2017, Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool held the fourth graduation ceremony for its graduating K2 students. The class of 6-year-olds, together with twenty 5-year-old K1 students, presented part of a stage adaptation of the Sutra of Profound Gratitude towards Parents. Through live drama and sign language, the children expressed gratitude and appreciation to their parents for nurturing them.
With the accompaniment of beautiful, serene music, 20 graduating students, each bearing a lotus lamp in their hands, proceeded slowly to the stage for the “turning of the tassel” ceremony. The tassel on the mortarboard worn by each child represented a stalk of rice. Traditionally, the “turning of the tassel” symbolises the transition from a student to a graduate, upon the successful completion of one’s learning journey in school.
The teachers stood on stage to turn the tassel for each student, from the right side of the mortarboard to the left, as a form of blessing, and with the hope that the child would emulate the humble spirit of a rice stalk. The fuller the rice stalk, the lower it bends, hence the teachers hoped that each child would be filled with humility and decorum, just like a full stalk of rice.
The student representatives from K2 Courage Class, Hong Yu Qi and Huang Yu Xuan, confidently recited every single line of their graduating speech from memory, thanking their teachers and the volunteers for their care and love over the past few years. Another student, Ou Shao Heng made his English speech in measured tones, and roused the parents’ loud applause with his declaration of “Happy Graduation!”
However, he was not distracted by the loud clapping sounds, and patiently waited for the applause to die down before continuing his speech. It was hard to imagine that someone with such a calm stage presence was once a child who was lacking in self-confidence when he first entered the PreSchool. After he had finished his speech, he took several deep breaths to calm his nerves.
After the graduation speech, ten of the little children stepped to the front of the stage, each holding a pair of long drum sticks. At the shout of a command, the young drummers, along with the accompaniment of two teachers, began an energetic performance of synchronised drumming, to kick off the ceremony. Although they were only preschoolers, with focused concentration, they were able to make a powerful and resounding drumbeat that stirred the hearts of the listeners.
Feeling the Hardships of a Mother
Then, a row of girls wearing maternity dresses sat on the stage. Their bellies, stuffed with cushions, were progressive in size, to depict the various stages of pregnancy. As the song, “Pregnancy”, from the musical was played, the children acted out the psychological and physical discomforts that mothers endure when they are pregnant. Finally, everyone surrounded a “mother” carrying a doll, to welcome the birth of a new life in an atmosphere of joy.
The unexpected content of the skit drew the parents to stand up from their seats, with smiling faces, as they watched the children’s performance intently.
On the stage, the scene changed again. There were two boys of the same age and of equal height, one playing the father, while the other playing the child. The child sat cross-legged in front of the father, waiting to be fed, and the father gently wiped the boy’s mouth after feeding him each mouthful. This moving scene depicted the painstaking efforts of a parent feeding his young child each day at mealtimes.
“Mummies and Daddies, please prepare tissues to wipe your tears!” said the emcee half-jokingly, as she introduced the next segment of children serving tea and snack to their parents.
Even though the parents of graduating twins, Yuan Wei Zhang and Yuan Wei Zhen, did not shed any tears during the tea ceremony, they hugged their children with much emotion. It turned out that this was not the first time the twins fed their parents to show their gratitude and appreciation.
At home, the twins would not only take the initiative to serve their parents tea, but also help to massage their tired backs.
“Although they lack the strength, it still warms my heart,” said their father, Yuan Shi Jun, beaming with much fatherly pride.
The proud and happy father also spoke of how his children continued to apply what they had learned in school at home. For example, before each meal, they would ask the elders to eat first; they would also wash their own utensils after each meal and keep their own toys after playing with them. All these have become the boys’ habits.
Witnessing her children’s progress and growth, their mother never failed to recommend Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool to friends and relatives. But their applications were still pending due to insufficient quota.
There was a student who stood out from the rest at the graduation ceremony, and he was Ariq, a Malay boy. His mother, Liza, spoke Mandarin fluently.
“I hope that my son can learn one more language (Chinese) just like me. That’s why I chose Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool for him! At home, we all communicate in English, and his grandmother speaks Malay. In the past, Ariq always got into fights, but now he is more willing to share and interact with friends of other races,” Liza shared with a happy smile.
“Having changed two kindergartens for our son, we finally chose Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool,” said Dai Qiu Rong, who is a lecturer.
It turned out that her son, Shen Jun Yan, suffered health concerns while in his first kindergarten. His body weight dropped drastically and he became very picky over food. After being transferred to another famous kindergarten nearer to his parents’ workplace, Jun Yan’s confidence deteriorated, as the school placed excessive emphasis on the children’s artistic and academic performance.
“Since he went to Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, Jun Yan has become more cheerful and independent, and he even shows care towards others. He is no longer picky about food and loves to eat his vegetables. He even tells his parents to stop eating meat, but his weight has been increasing!” said Dai, who was now a happy and satisfied mother.