Raksha Awasthi and her husband made the trip to Mumbai all the way from Lucknow for their grandson’s graduation ceremony a few years ago. Their grandson, Siddhantha, was all of three years old then. But decked out in the full regalia of the black gown and cap, he graduated in all solemnity from pre-school to Class 1.
For the doting grandparents the ceremony was a proud and emotional moment. “We don’t know whether we will be alive when he actually graduates so we wanted to be here for this graduation,” said Awasthi, who is a principal of a school in Lucknow. “Like all grandparents we were jumping up and down in excitement,” she added.
Pre-schools in the city are increasingly beginning to mark, in all earnestness, the move from kindergarten to primary school. “It’s a very big shift for the kids to move into the primary section, it’s like ending one phase of their lives,” said Kusum Kanwar, head of school operations for Kangaroo Kids Education Limited, whose set of pre-schools has graduation ceremonies for all its toddlers.
Usually, toddlers dressed in the ceremonial black gowns and caps go up on stage one by one to collect their ‘graduation’ certificate. In some functions children also put up performances.
It’s almost ironic that such a solemn ritual is played out with small children. “I’m pretty sure my son doesn’t know what this means but we could see it was important for him,” said Jaspreet, whose son graduated from Kangaroo Kids at Pali Hill this year. For some schools it’s an even more special occasion. At Naad Early Intervention Centre hearing impaired toddlers leave to join mainstream schools.
“It’s different from a regular nursery graduation because the transition is such a big deal for the children and their parents,” said Malu Patel, programme co-coordinator at the centre. “It’s a very emotional occasion.”
Not everyone is enamoured by the ritual.
“These rituals cater to the upper class that understands and relates to them,” said V B Bhosale, associate professor, sociology, Mumbai University. “With several pre-schools in the city modelled on the western system of early education, they like the children to relate to such traditions at an early age.”