Saturday, October 27, 2007

Retirement celebration

On Thursday I went to a retirement celebration for a teacher at Lutfotja (La-toe-cha) Primary School. The ceremony and handout of her credentials were in Siswati, but I can tell you that her name was Madam Khumalo, she was born in 1946 and that she taught first grade at Lutfotja Primary from 1977 through 2005. All together she taught for 34 years. I have no idea why it took them 2 years to have a retirement party for her.

Unfortunately, it was a cold, rainy day. As many people as possible sat under a tent and under the awnings of the school buildings, but many children sat in chairs or on the ground without any covering. I was cold so I know they had to be freezing. The celebration consisted of the usual speeches and performances from the school choir, the preschool children (who of course were the cutest!), and various other grade levels and groups in the school. The older girls did a traditional Swazi dance and the boys did one as well. A few of the older boys did a couple of dances to the beat of two cow hide drums. The drummers used branches to beat the drum. It was pretty amazing to watch.

At one point during the celebration it was time for the various groups to say thank you to Madam Khumalo. In Swaziland, people say thank you with gifts of presents and money. The individuals giving the gifts come up and put them on the table in front of the honouree, many times making a short speech and singing and dancing while they are presenting the gift of thanksgiving. The money is laid on the table in a pile. If a person wants to give a certain amount of money, say 10 rand, but all they have is a 20 rand bill, then they put down the twenty and take 10 rand in change!

The ceremony was supposed to start at 10:00, but didn’t start until after 11:00, because Rev. Ngema and I didn’t arrive there until after 11:00 and they said it was pouring down rain at 10:00. The celebration didn’t finish until after 1:30. Afterwards, lunch was served for all. They served a pretty typical menu consisting of fried chicken, beef, salad, rice, a “soup” which is really a gravy for the rice, green cabbage, cooked greens or spinach, beet root and potato salad. There are over 550 children at this school, about 15 teachers, several teachers from other schools and many parents and community members. The lunch was all cooked over open fire in big cast iron pots. Can you imagine how many mothers were needed to cook the meal and how long it must have taken them? And don’t forget, it was raining off and on all morning. Where is Pok-e-jo’s when you need them?

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