“In our one and a half years in the school (Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool), we learnt (the qualities of) gratitude, respect and love. We will definitely continue practising (these qualities) as we go on to primary school, and will face what the future brings with courage and perseverance…… With faith, courage and perseverance, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished in this world. I wish you all the best, my friends!”
Little valedictorians Jasper Yau and Ng Jing Lin stood on stage and delivered the speech fluently on behalf of their fellow classmates, much to the delight of the parents watching down stage.
The decorations at Jing Si Hall imparted a warm and elegant feel to the event, and they were completed the previous day, a joint effort by both students and teachers. On display on the long tables at the back of the prayer hall were models of aeroplanes, sharks, flowers, etc. created by the students, using recycled materials. The handiwork imparted new life into the materials which might have been discarded otherwise. A partition filled with photographs that documented the learning journey of students brought the sweet memories back to mind.
The graduation ceremony proceeded with English teachers Vivian Chong and Chinese teacher Xing Dong Mei as the emcees. Just before the start of the event, the students wearing their dark blue graduation gowns and square hats filed into the hall quietly. They had their hats turned from right to left in the symbolic gesture of graduation and received their certificate from CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore Mr Low Swee Seh, administration manager Mr Keng Lim, principal of the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool Mdm Chong Ai Guan, and the child care centre’s supervisor, Tai Nyeok Moi.
Little Children Learn to Love the Earth
Among the graduates was Hesper Tay, a hyperactive child who used to cause his mother much worry. Before he enrolled in the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, he was never able to stay for long at the other kindergartens. His mother enquired at the child care centre in March of this year and he was finally accepted into the centre. She felt that the half hour journey to reach school every day was well worth the effort, as the teachers did not treat her child as “different” from the others.
In just half a year, the changes in her child was noticeable; he had become more obedient, knew about recycling and even started to become a vegetarian. He started off by not eating fish and gradually gave up eating chicken as well. Though his parents worried that he would not get sufficient nutrition, his mother was confident about the vegetarian foods she had provided in replacement. Seeing that he was able to graduate successfully, his mother was deeply thankful for the patient guidance of his teachers.
For Ha Zhi Xin who was a shy and reserved child, changes were similarly observed by her mother in the short span of two weeks.
“(She has) become happier, is more considerate of other’s feelings, is no longer temperamental and has improved in her interactions with the family,” said her mother who explained that her daughter used to be moody even after she had come home from school.
Whenever there was bickering in the family, her daughter would refer to the Jing Si Aphorism: “Speak good words, think good thoughts and do good deeds” in an effort to encourage them.
Zhi Xin would even practice what she had been taught in school and serve tea to her parents. She would tell her grandparents not to buy meat for her consumption, remind her mother not to use plastic bags at the supermarket and even sort out recyclables at home. She would say, “Teacher says ‘Mother Earth will be angry (if we do so)!”
Zhi Xin’s mother feels comforted that her daughter takes her learning in school seriously and is grateful that the Tzu Chi child care centre provides a happy learning environment for her child.
Growing Up With Mutual Gratitude
During the ceremony, footages of the students’ learning journey were shown, from engaging in outdoor activities to picking up life skills. The images documented them keeping the environment clean, saving water and ensuring that food wastage did not happen.
The graduates put up two impressive sign language song performances which impressed the adults. Many whipped out their smartphones, capturing the memorable scenes.
“Daddy and mummy, please have some tea!”
In the specially arranged segment, the little children carefully presented tea to their parents. In return, they got a warm hug from their parents and the atmosphere was truly moving.
Vivian Chong who had taught at the preschool for a year, was loathe to part with her students. Over the course of their studies, her students were taught to cooperate with one another and develop team spirit during group activities and projects. In addition, they learnt to have a sense of responsibility and built up their confidence through being of service to others. The Jing Si Aphorisms also came in handy for inspiring the goodness in their hearts.
Seeing the development of her students, Chong said, “If (the children) are taught the right foundations from the start, and good habits are inculcated into their daily lives, they would be able to benefit from what they have learnt in the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool in future. The seeds of love have been sown in their hearts, (and I) hope that they can continue to do good and develop their capabilities. ”
Continuing the Cycle of Love
Explaining that they had done their research online and learnt that the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool places great emphasis on developing character and learning life skills, Tan Si Kai’s parents were glad to have him enrolled successfully.
In his parents’ eyes, Si Kai was an active child who often threw tantrums and had difficulty concentrating. They were hence grateful for the efforts of the teachers which resulted in their child developing independence, confidence and social skills.
They spoke of how his temper had improved and would take the initiative to carry out daily tasks himself. Whereas in the past he would not touch his greens, he would now eat them willingly and would even tell his parents about vegetarianism.
Narvaesh, the only Indian student in the cohort, was transferred to the child care centre only in May last year. He could not understand a word of Chinese at first but with the help of his teachers, his command of the language has never stopped improving.
Initially he could only understand what was being spoken, but by graduation, he could remarkably write down the Chinese characters of every one of his classmates’ names. His father Mr Ravichandren expressed with pride that his son’s knowledge of Chinese would definitely come in handy in future.
Narvaesh would teach his family members how to sing Chinese songs, and though his father could neither understand the lyrics nor sing them, seeing how much his son enjoyed himself, he decided to let his son continue to study the language in primary school.
Mother Madam Nitiah is surprised how much her son has learnt; Narvaesh has become more sensible and thoughtful. He now helps the elderly to cross the road, lends a hand in packing his younger brother’s schoolbag, assists his mother in the kitchen and aids his grandmother whenever she needs to use the toilet. In view of the above, she said that she would definitely recommend the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool to her friends with young children.
In his speech at the graduation ceremony, CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore Mr Low Swee Seh said, “Tzu Chi’s educational curriculum does not only focus on knowledge, it places emphasis on character development, the learning of useful skills for life, and environmental conservation. Education is extremely important and so are teachers…… We have already planted the first seed in the children’s hearts; we hope that these seeds will continue to develop and grow into big trees, becoming the pillars of our society (in the future).”