On the day before graduation, Hayley, our Head of House (and my tutor) invited all Block 3 students and teachers to her flat for a last gathering before the year ends. It was not only the day before graduation, but also the day of our special dinner. As always on an important occasion, everyone was dressed in their best attire – the girls in beautiful dresses and the boys in suits. Hayley greeted all of us with a warm sile and once everybody had grabbed a drink and delicious home-made snacks, the big white screen which was put up in a corner of the living-room turned into a beautiful reminder of the shared moments in the last year.
It was a “Block 3 Video” – so to call it – showing pictures f us pandas during block meetings, activities or in our rooms. Afterwards Hayley delivered a moving speech, leaving all of us in deep , thoughts. To me, one of the most memorable parts of her speech was when she talked about UBUNTU. It was the story of an an anthropologist proposed a game to children of the African Xhosa tribe. “He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the children that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats.When he asked them why they had run like that when one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said, ‘UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?’ UBUNTU in the Xhosa culture means: ‘I am because we are.’
The essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality — Ubuntu — you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Hayley’s speech was a message to as all. In times when life becomes difficult to manage, when stress takes over, those times when the burning flame of our UWC spirit flickers – that be because our academics become challenging or because we are leaving our UWC bubble to go into the “real world”- it is important to remember Ubuntu as a part of that spirit.
As the end of the year approached, it was not only time for us to say goodbye to our beloved secondyears, but also to three teachers who have made a great impact on the school during the many years they have taught here: Sylla, our history teacher and Ming, one of our math teachers will be leaving Li Po Chun. Sylla will continue teaching history at the newly opened Robert Bosch UWC in Germany and Ming will be taking up a post as a math teacher in a school in Japan. I did not have classes with Ming, but as a history student I – of course – had classes with Sylla.
He was for sure the most interesting, the sweetest and definitely most different history teacher I ever had. As a polyglott, speaking more than 10 languages fluently and a man with a never ending intellectual thirst, he always cracked jokes in our own languages in class, gave us the most fascinating facts about famous people in history, and also baked us delicious delicious so that we would not starve during our morning blocks (which are before breakfast) and have a “sweet” start in the day. Our history lessons never consisted of just reading the book and memorizing dates, no, we would do simulations and trials of historically important people, watch documentaries (and critically evaluate them according to their origins, values, purpose and limitation) and of course have engaging discussions about the private lives of presidents, emperors and other men and women who made history. Lorraine delivered a speech dedicated to Sylla, a beautiful “thank you” from a tutee to her tutor, filled with anecdotes from tutor meetings and class time.
Afterwards a speech for Julie followed. Julie is not leaving Li Po Chun, but she is moving to Block 1 due to little Benjamin. Julie also had a few words for us , moving us all – especially her former tutees – to tears.
Around 6:30 it was time for some of us to leave our gathering and go to the canteen: a group of firstyears had volunteered for being waiters/waitresses at the special dinner. We were instructed by our school’s chef Simon himself. After allocating tables and running through the waiter-101 (order of cutlery on the table, side of serving food, etc.) we were ready to go! Dressed in black and white we entered the canteen. Simon and his team had already decorated the tables with candles and little stones. We had a “speed-dinner” on one of the tables allocated for us and then opened the canteen doors. Students, teachers – the entire campus – poured in, wearing beautiful gowns and suits. Like bees we swarmed out to the tables and served our “guests” their first plate. The food was exceptionally good and beautifully arranged.
Having distributed all first plates we lined up near the kitchen entrance where the main dish was already waiting to be grabbed by us and served. Suddenly the lights were dimmed and the big white screen which at first unnoticed lit up. The students had prepared a special farewell video for Ming and Sylla in which we all said a few words of goodbye and wished them well for their next journey. (Will be uploaded soon!)
Afterwards little gifts, including handmade doortags were presented and lots of hugs were given out. There was lots of applause and many handshakes. It seemed so hard to believe that two teachers who have truly shaped this school would be leaving us. The two schools in which they will be teaching soon can call themselves very lucky. The special dinner was a full success – everybody left with happy tummies and lots of smiles on their face. We cleaned up the canteen and as we picked up the plates – one by one – we noticed how fast the year had gone by. Tomorrow was already graduation day! Our evening as waiters and waitresses ended with a group photo and bittersweet excitement for the next day.