My Day as Chief Guest at a Graduation Ceremony

Urooj Qureshi
Nov 20, 2012 · 4 min read
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About 10 days ago I arrived in Malindi, Kenya, to volunteer with a Canadian grassroots NGO, . I could not have imagined then the honour that would be bestowed upon me here. In the absence of the Nina Chung, Executive Director, I was asked to officiate as the Chief Guest at the graduation ceremony of kindergarten-3 class at Upendo Nursery School in Sabaki village near Malindi.

The ceremony and the story of this school are both heart warming.

Sabaki is a typical Kenyan village consisting mainly of mud-houses with no water or electricity. Before 2007, the only schooling option available was one of two government schools located at more than an hours walk. Parents would have to accompany the young ones (6–7 years) until they were old enough to walk the distance. So many chose to keep their children at home. In 2007, some community members came together to start Upendo Nursery School. The original school was a 0ne-room mud hut until 2010 when Elimu first met with the community. Over 80 children were enrolled in the school at the time.

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In 2011, the school was moved to a small cinder-block house with dark and cramped rooms with mud floors and unplastered walls. The same year in June, Elimu started fundraising to build a proper building and by November completed the first phase of construction. By March, 2012, the first classroom was built and by August enough funds were raised to complete the second class in time for the new semester to commence. Funds are still being raised to complete the third classroom and equip the school with proper desks and chairs.

The most incredible thing about here is that Elimu is a 100% volunteer run organization! That means a 100% of the funds raised go directly towards building the school and other community projects in the region.

Today the the first class graduated out of this new building that was founded on the dreams of a community to give its children the gift of knowledge. I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to be the chief guest on behalf of Elimu and be a part of a dream coming true.

Upon my arrival today I was greeted by members of the steering committee who gave me a tour of the simple, two-room structure. I walked in to the first class room and was greeted by the youngest children as “teacher! “. In the second classroom was a fine looking group of little ones dressed up in their graduation gowns, eager to move forward in their journey of illuminating hearts and minds.

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The ceremony took place under the shadow of a beautiful tree. The committee members and I sat across from the parents as the first group of children came singing in a two-row formation. They lined up in front of us to greet us in song and dance. The graduating class followed in their ceremonial gowns and continued to serenade us with more songs of welcome, gratitude, and dreams for the future. Following the Chairman’s speech, the committee members lined up in front of me to introduce themselves. I felt honoured and congratulated the team on their accomplishment and their dedication to the Sabaki community. I then addressed the parents and students opening with an African proverb I had learned many years ago:

“It takes a village to raise a child” — African Proverb

Right after the speeches, just as you would expect at a university graduation, I was asked to present each child with their kindergarten certificate as their names were called up. A booklet and some stationary were also handed for use in their further studies. Finally it was time for cake which we cut together by creating a chain of hands, holding one another, and blessing these children to become the beacon of hope and prosperity for their families and community.

Elimu has almost reached it’s goal but funds are still needed to complete the building of Upendo Nursery School. Elimu is a registered Canadian charity (BN 828374134RR0001) so a charitable tax receipt is available for all Canadian residents who make a donation.

For more information please visit

About The Author

Urooj Qureshi is pro Adventurer and storyteller. Follow his adventures on Instagram @uroojqureshi.

Originally published at on November 20, 2012.

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