In South Africa, students doing grade 12 are not called “seniors;” they are called “Matriculates.” This is because at the end of 12th grade, the students take their Matric exams. This is a nation-wide standardized test that similar to the ACT or the SAT that we take in the states, except that it not only decides your eligibility to college, but also if you pass 12th grade as a whole. You could have straight A’s in class, but if you fail your Matric exam, you have to take the whole year over. With that in mind, I will tell you that Matric is a BIG DEAL. In this part of the country where education has many problems and is sorely lacking, it is a big deal to even make it to your Matric year in high school. For those who do make it to Matric, it is a great achievement and one that students are very proud of. So when I was asked a month or so ago to be a “guest speaker at an upcoming event,” I didn’t realize that what I was actually agreeing to was to be the guest speaker at this year’s Matric Tie Ceremony. This is a ceremony that happens at the beginning of the year where all of the Matric students are given their special Matric ties. Their ties are different from the other students (keep in mind that all schools are uniform-wearing) and they say their school name and MATRIC 2012 on them. Each tie is placed around a student’s neck by a parent, aunt, sibling, or family friend. The purpose of the ceremony and of the ties is to motivate students to keep working hard, to congratulate them on their success, and to serve as a constant reminder to those students that they are the example now. People keep these ties even after they are out of school the same way that people in the States keep their tassels from graduation. Because many of the students who start their Matric year don’t graduate and because students do not find out their Matric exam marks until after the school year is finished, this ceremony is, for all intents and purposes, the equivalent in scale and importance to a high school graduation ceremony in the States. When I found this out (after I had already agreed), I kind of panicked. BUT… I had plenty of time to prepare and my speech went over very well, if I do say so myself. The ceremony itself was an occasion to be reckoned with. There was singing and dancing and food and a DJ. There were proud parents and family members and all of the students from Nozuko (plus some students from neighboring schools). It was loud and raucous and joyful and, unlike US graduation ceremonies, it was not at all dull. It went on for hours, but it was so entertaining that no one seemed to mind. I was so honored to be asked to speak to these students and also very aware of what it would mean to them to have someone from overseas as their guest speaker. For them, it was something extra special and prestigious even though I see myself as an average Joe. I hope I motivated them and I hope that my words didn’t go in one ear and out the other. However, if they did, I’m still glad that I could make that ceremony something even more special for the Nozuko S.S.S. Matriculates of 2012.
Here's a short video recap and some pictures for you all. Enjoy!
|Proud parents/aunts/uncles officially bestowing the Matric ties.|
|A newly "tied" Matric student!|