2 September 2013

Celebrating the Day of Knowledge

I recall, that when I was very young each September heralded the start of school.  When I look back at those years I cannot help but think that some sort of ceremony, a red letter day, would have gone some way to alleviating the feelings of dread that I recall in my very first year as I stepped up to face the unknown or, in later years, the sense of disappointment I felt as my summer freedoms and family time came to an end. 

My very traditional British boarding school understood this well and had a ceremony called 'handshaking'.  All pupils were expected to attend a chapel service to mark the start of the school year, the prefects would then usher us out class by class, youngest first, and we would proceed slowly down the corridor shaking the hand of every member of staff from the Headmistress to the most junior house-staff. As we had 80 staff and about 480 pupils this took some time but it did mean we felt we knew what our teachers looked like.   Here in Kazakhstan, and indeed across much of the Russian speaking world, they also understand the need to make pupils feel comfortable in their schools so they have a special ceremony to mark the start of the school year.  

My own daughter insisted on having white pom-poms
in her hair.  It is a local tradition for 1 September.  
1 September is  known as the Day of Knowledge and marks the end of summer and the beginning of Autumn and another school year.  I have, this year, joined my husband in working at the same school that our children go to so the last week has been spent setting up and making preparations so that the school will look like a welcoming and exciting place to be.

All schools will be open on the Day of Knowledge, no matter which day of the week it falls on.  Parents spend the run-up preparing their children's uniform (complete with white hair pom-poms for the girls) and getting the right bags and equipment to see the children through the year ahead.  Many pupils both old and new, bring flowers, chocolates or other gifts for their teacher.  The pupils and parents go to the new classrooms and meet their teachers and classmates.  The whole school then gathers for an opening ceremony.  At our school the pupils traditionally gather together to listen to an address from the Headmaster before releasing balloons into the air (one per pupil).  For most schools, however, the tradition calls for one of the youngest girls in the school to ring the Первый Звнок (first bell).  

At our school pupils love releasing balloons into the air for 1 September.
There are no formal classes and most pupils will leave shortly after all the ceremonies are completed, ready to return the next day and settle in to their very first lessons.  The day itself is a very sweet tradition.  It helps to ease new and possibly nervous pupils into their school environment and it is lovely to see the city full of children with their white pompoms in their hair proud of their shiny new shoes, uniforms and bags and, more than anything else, proud of their school community. 

Click on the picture for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat

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