Friday, April 10, 2015

Week Seven: Corruption in History: War or Genocide?

Winnie Godi and Jordan Wood
As fantastic as other weeks have been, week seven had an interesting twist of its own. During week seven, not only did we have the opportunity to listen to admirable speakers with resilient views and a wide range of experiences, but week seven also produced remarkable yet distressing discourses, leaving the students with feelings of confusion.

Topics encompassing historical conspiracies were discussed in prodigious detail. One historical period in Namibia examined, is years 1904-1908, the years of the German-Herero War. This period is one of extensive bereavement due to unforeseen circumstances. German soldiers were ordered to ethnically cleanse the Herero ethnic group of Namibia. Not only was an act of genocide committed against the indigenous peoples but this also became disremembered history or unacknowledged by many.

Evidently, some call the event the German-Herero war, while others call it the Herero Genocide. Although both titles are representative of the same thing and may be used interchangeably by many, in my opinion the ‘German-Herero war’ sugarcoats the realistic happenings. When one hears of war, they think of two sides fighting one another; of course this was the case at first, through acts of self-defense, but the title of ‘war’ became irrelevant when General Lothar Von Trothar ordered the killings and unlawful detainment of Hereros.

Independence Museum Display 
German influence is still tremendously relevant in Namibia, and one can clearly notice the economic and social disparities between whites and blacks with the naked eye. In Tuesday’s class, ‘Racism and Resistance in the United States and Southern Africa,’ we spoke about race relations in the United States in contrast and comparison to Southern Africa, leading to the discussion of history in education. In Namibia, many do not acknowledge the genocide of the Herero’s, Germans and Namibians both. Those who do are making significant efforts to establish a reconciliation committee to benefit those who are affected by this atrocity. The lack of education about a nation’s full history is a common reoccurring concern across the world. Often times we find that the history relayed to the public and taught in schools is the history of the ‘dominant race, the victors, or from a Western perspective’ in this case are the Germans.

Immediately after this deliberation, we received a speaker, Professor Kerina, known for naming Namibia and also acclaimed for being politically active in the liberation struggle, as well as conducting negotiations with Germany in hopes of reconciliation for those affected by the genocide. Throughout his presentation he continued to reiterate how the Herero genocide was buried for hundreds of years in Namibia until educated Namibians who received education abroad learned about the genocide.

Kerina officiated trials held at the United States Supreme Court in Washington D.C. against primary actors who violated Herero human rights. This required gathering of evidence, in which skulls of Herero’s were discovered in homes in Germany, which were returned to Namibia when asked, yet Germany is still hesitant to fully participate in reconciliation efforts according to Kerina; if Germany is hesitant and if the majority of German citizens unacknowledged the genocide, who shall be held accountable? Meanwhile, a student concocted a very important question, “Why should African countries run to the United States as a savior?” Kerina answered, “Because there is a lot that Africa can learn from the United States.” Without delay, I disagreed mentally. The United States has had a countless number of problems addressing their own issues regarding national reconciliation and the underrepresentations of communities of color in history as well as other aspects. So how does one go about addressing the underrepresentations of communities of color? Through altering education. Both the United States and Namibia need to make significant efforts in altering history in education and without that first step, both countries will remain socially and economically unequal for people of color.

Discussing atrocities such as the Herero genocide often leads to important theoretical discussions defining, explaining, and expanding such atrocities. An important theoretical approach expanding the discussion of the Herero genocide involves the notion of complicitous accountability. Complicitous accountability, in the context of this discussion, refers to the degree of responsibility citizens have in genocides. While state actors and its decision makers hold direct responsibility, citizens play a role that should not be denied. Thus, complicitous accountability can be considered a form of critique and direct action by citizens. This term evokes a sense of consciousness, or an awareness of actions concerning governments, while engaging in a critical analysis of those actions. Examining complicitous accountability, arguably, is limited analytically to democracies and democratic principles. Adhering to complicitous accountability involves individuals, groups, and the whole society transforming power structures that allow genocides to occur.

While the brutality of the Holocaust is well known, the genocide of the Herero people in the German-Herero War by the Germans is less known. However, the connections between the two genocides should not be denied. The interconnectedness of the Herero genocide and the Holocaust, though, is debated. It’s argued that many ideas communicated through various methods during the Herero genocide influenced the philosophies and methods of the Nazi regime. The discussion of genocidal ideas, during the Herero genocide, through public documents and speeches results in the complicitous accountability of German citizens during this time. While it would be foolish to state the complicitous accountability of Germans during this era would change the outcomes of the Holocaust, complicitous accountability may have influenced the results. If the German people discussed the genocide of the Herero people in depth, with public debate, counter ideas of anti-genocidal actions could have arisen. Public opinion certainly influences both domestic and foreign policy. If enough Germans opposed the actions of General Lothar Von Trothar, it is conceivable that the events of the Herero genocide, and possibly the Holocaust, could have been influenced in some manner.

While the German government acknowledges and apologized for the Herero genocide, this action is insufficient for the atrocities that occurred. To “right” past wrongs, if such an idea indeed exists, should occur. The complicitous accountability of German citizens in the insufficient and delayed response to the Herero genocide should ensue. While addressing genocide in regards to complicitous accountability is unambiguous, possible solutions could be fruitful. For example, while reparations do not make up for the atrocities committed, it does give a slight sense of justice and further acknowledgment of wrongdoing. However, some criticisms of reparations include the perpetuation of the victim-perpetrator narrative but this could be counteracted. In addition, another possible solution is to establish a meaningful relationship with the Herero people. This could include economic assistance under the complete understanding and approval of the Herero people. A meaningful relationship could also include promoting political power, since the Herero people could be considered a disenfranchised minority group within Namibia.

Overall, this week was quite thought provoking. Discussions revolving around the Native American genocide, the dangers of a single narrative, the myth of multiculturalism in the United States, criticisms of academic discourse on the Herero and Native American genocides, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of being an aware person ensued. This semester has been a challenging yet rewarding learning atmosphere thus far and I’m excited to continue the trend!
Sculpture demonstrating breaking of chains from imprisonment. 
This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Week Six: Coastal Cities

Matt Higgins and Greta Carlson

Last week we went our first travel seminar within Namibia, visiting the coastal cities of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. On Thursday morning, we embarked on a four-hour drive from Windhoek to Namibia’s central coast, where we began our trip on a guided tour of Swakopmund. On this brief but busy tour we visited Mondesa township and the Democratic Resettlement Community, where we were introduced to local artists and musicians, toured the Community Skills Development Centre (a practical education and job skills training program), and met with a local matriarch, Oma Lina, among other visits. 

The tour balanced entertainment and information, but still catered strongly to our presence as tourists. We felt uncomfortable being honoured as exceptional guests, when our presence in Swakopmund is a direct product of our community’s financial privilege. Thus, the tour served as an opportunity to critique and question institutions of tourism, especially considering recent histories of forcibly applied inequality.  How does tourism perpetuate singular images of Namibia or Namibian people? Swakopmund serves as a tourist hub of Namibia, attracting many visitors from around the world—primarily white Europeans. This pattern creates severe economic and racial contrast between the residents of the town of Swakopmund and the residents of Mondesa township. As travelling students in Namibia, we sometimes struggle to balance our academic study and our experience as visitors. While the staff coordinating the Center for Global Education and Experience work hard to be conscious when choosing local speakers with varied backgrounds to present for our program, it still feels at times as though our foreign, visiting presence does not fully address the economic discrepancy between our group and those that we visit, contributing to troubling power dynamics between CGEE students and our Namibian hosts.

After returning from our tour, many of us took a short walk from our guesthouse to the beach, which represents Swakopmund as tourist destination, environmental preserve and economic hub.
The beautiful beach in Swakopmund!
The prominence of these themes continued with our visit to Walvis Bay on Friday. We began the morning in Swakopmund with a visit to the office for Namibian Coast Conservation and Management (NACOMA). The mission of NACOMA is to pave the way for the Integrated Coastal Zone Management System for the Namibian Coast (ICZMC), a bill that should serve as the policy for the environmental management of the Namibian coastline. The Namibian coastline serves as a habitat for unique populations of plants and animal species, not found in such concentrations elsewhere. NACOMA’s presentation served as an informative introduction to the challenges of human/environment interaction, and how we, as visitors, should remain aware of the problem of landscape degradation caused by tourist activity. 

Despite lofty goals of ecological preservation, NACOMA is a temporary organization that will end its current term in December 2015—so its future is unknown. The habitat of the Namibian coastline is unique and vulnerable, home to plant and animal populations threatened by mining, coastal development and heavy tourism. The high dunes and low plains of the Namib Desert meet the ocean near Swakopmund—one of the only places in the world where such a convergence can be found. The entire Namibian coastline is protected parkland, but the rules and regulations governing the parkland, and what activities may be undertaken in it, vary widely. It is also hard to effectively monitor the regulations  as the programs are understaffed and diverse.         
Flamingos at the Walvis Bay Lagoon

From Swakopmund, we left for the nearby city of Walvis Bay, stopping by the Port of Walvis Bay to meet with Cliff, assistant to the Chief Executive Officer of the Namibian Port Authority. Cliff presented on both the domestic role and the competitive international position of the Namibian Port Authority in maintaining the most accessible deepwater port in Southwestern Africa for large cargo ships. Our visit occurred at an opportune moment, as the Port Authority is currently working to significantly expand the current Port of Walvis Bay through land reclamation while also developing a new, even larger port nearby. 

Expansions on the current port have sparked controversy through their use of dredging in land reclamation. Cliff assured our group that the opportunities gained through the development of a larger port—such as job creation, access to resources and international trading capacity—would significantly outweigh its cost. He also stated that experts in environmental conservation closely monitor the project. Still, residents of Walvis Bay, who claim visible changes in the marine landscape since dredging began, hotly contest the effects of the port development projects. This debate reflects broader challenges within the Namibian political landscape. Should economic growth be favored despite potentially harmful social and environmental impacts? Should projects attracting foreign investment be favored over domestically-initiated and operated projects?
NamPort land reclamation site.

Like the port development projects, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay’s tourist industries prioritize the exchange of international capital, and have clear impacts on local people and environments. Destruction or corruption of habitats through training of animals, construction of recreational facilities like ATV parks, and pollution of dunes poses a serious threat to local environments. On boat tours, for example, pelicans are trained to fly next to and land on boats in exchange for fish.
Pelicans seen on a boat tour. Photo credit: Katie Wilson
Well-meaning changes like this to the “natural environment” benefit tour companies, but come at uncertain costs to wildlife.  Our group participated in a range of tourist activities while in Swakopmund, and many of us came back with mixed feelings about our role and impact in issues like environmental preservation and social division upon economic lines. Conscious discomfort regarding our impacts did not prevent us from still participating, even if we remained critical of those impacts. It is our opinion that, in these situations, the responsibility is on both the tourist and the tour company to insure neutral or positive social and ecological impacts during travel.

Upon departure from the Port, our group headed toward Swakopmund, stopping at Dune 7—a large sand dune easily accessible by car for public climbing, which keeps other dunes protected. While a bit of a physical challenge, the heights offered stunning views of the desert and a rewarding photo opportunity. We had a blast.

The NamFam after conquering Dune 7!
Our trip to the coast made us consider our impacts, both positive and negative, on the people and environments with whom we interact as students and as tourists. These questions will continue to impact our conversation and work here in the CGEE Southern Africa program, particularly during future travel around Namibia.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Week Five: Identity

Katie Wilson & Louise Edwards

We close the front gate of our home in Windhoek and run downhill, our shirts already sticking to our sweating skin in the still-hot evening hours.   The sound of barking dogs follows us, the dogs straining against gates and fences as we whiz by.  When we make it to the top of the next hill, we see the golden halo of the sun illuminating the dusty purple mountains and a blanket of lights revealing the expanse of houses on the rolling landscape. This is one way Windhoek will be defined in our memories. 
View of Windhoek on a sunset run. 

It will also be walking to the Wernhil Mall to pick up floss, potato chips, or chocolate – past the Polytechnic of Namibia, down a set of metal stairs and through a maze of taxi drivers. 

Louise: When I make a purchase, the cashier asks if I am Brazilian –  a response that I have gotten from several people in Namibia because of my thick curly hair and skin that’s sometimes considered a shade too dark to only be a white person’s tan.  I am used to people misreading my race both at home and abroad, never guessing correctly that I am a quarter Chinese and three-quarters Caucasian.  However, I never thought about what it meant for people to misread my nationality.

Katie: People misread my nationality all the time.  I am ethnically 100% Chinese and because of my physical appearance, am automatically assumed to be from China and Chinese speaking.  In reality, the only part of me that identifies with China is my DNA.  I see myself as an American and nothing else so it can be abrupt when I’m walking and someone greets me in Mandarin.  

Looks don't define who you are.
Louise: This week in my history class, “Racism and Resistance in Southern Africa and the United States,” I started thinking more about nationality and how it impacts identity when we watched a video titled The Color of Fear.  The video documents a conversation about race relations in America amongst men of differing races.  One man of color participant, who did not identify as an American even though he was born and raised in America noted that, “The word American really means white to us.  It doesn’t incorporate all of us.”  While the video focused on American perceptions, it was interesting to see from my own experience in Namibia and traveling elsewhere that the correlation of American being synonymous with white exists on a global scale.  People who perceive me as white have no problem assuming that I am American, while people who perceive me as non-white jump to the conclusion that I am from Spain, Brazil or another Central or South American country.

Katie: I’ve often had the experience of having individuals that I meet argue with me about my nationality when I say I’m from America.  There is no hesitation in assuming I am Chinese because I do not fit the Caucasian stigma and then it is hard to convince anyone elsewise.  My perceptions of myself are so very different than individuals I meet here.  However I have a double-edged sword: I am identified as both American and Chinese and neither are received completely favorably.  In our “Politics and Development in Southern Africa” class, we heard another unique Namibian perspective from Herbert who talked about the impacts of globalization in Namibia.  He discussed how the influence of Chinese investment in Namibia affected the country on an economic, political, and social level.  Using the textile industry he explained how exploitive China had become toward Namibian workers and how that created a lot of the xenophobic feelings in response.  I thought that was fascinating since I have experienced firsthand both Namibians gratifying from Chinese investment and then discrediting it in the same sentence quite often.

Louise: In another video in History, another man of color noted that he strongly identified as American, not because he felt like the stereotypical view of an American fit him, but because he felt that identifying as an American would help broaden the definition of who can be American.  Sometimes I want to run away from my American identity and leave it behind like the rows of barking dogs.  Sometimes I am proud that I can be perceived as a non-American and lose the stereotypes of Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s portrait of “the ugly American” intervening abroad – the arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance of Americans that breeds problems.  Yet other times I find it important to identify myself as an American, not only to broaden the definition of American, but also to recognize that I come from a place of privilege, as well as a place built on violence.  A place where my great great uncle had the power to authorize the poisoning of Patrice Lumumba’s toothpaste and his assassination. 

Katie: The defining of nationality and ethic identification is a constant confrontation no matter what your story and genetic makeup are.  Whether you are a visitor or a citizen you are a representation of something greater than yourself.  Whether I identify with one race or am grouped with one by someone else, I am a representation of both things.  I would like to imagine that I can represent both my nationality and ethnicity with justice, however it is important to remember it is not one individual’s job to educate 2 million people on cultural sensitivity.  

Louise: In reflecting on defining my own identity, it has also been an exercise in remembering that all of us have complex identities.  Just as there is no set portrait of an American, there is no set portrait of a Namibian.  Coming back from out homestays from last week, it was exciting to hear stories from my classmates about their unique experiences with diverse people – everything from going to church on Sunday morning, trying on traditional Herero and Oshiwambo clothing, or having a braai. 
Katie in a traditional Oshiwambo dress with Meme, her urban homestay host mother. 
Katie: Identity is a concept created by people to limit experiences of others.  It establishes who someone is but in doing so trails multiple stigmas.  It is essential to realize that identity components are made up for humans, by humans.  In order to fully embrace an experience one should look past those limiting stigmas and meet the individual wherever she or he is at, without any predominating factors.  

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Week Four: Racial Relations in Education-- An Urban Homestay Experience

By Andrea Sutliff and Haley Henneberry

This week, the Center for Global Education and Experience students embarked on a long anticipated journey—urban homestays. Nervousness and excitement flowed through the house as we packed our bags and set off to live with various Windhoek families for five days. We all had very different experiences throughout the week, from evening hikes, to Bible study groups, but in the end we were able to come together and reflect on the sometimes-difficult conversations we engaged in during our homestays. There was one common theme that stood out in our two homestays, race and racial relations in education.

In the United States, race is a conversation that is both taboo and often ignored. People avoid the topic at all costs, calling themselves “color-blind” or insisting that racism no longer exists. In Namibia, however, racial tensions are openly discussed because they are nearly as strong today as they were twenty years ago during apartheid.

Haley’s Experience
My host mother, Silas Kukuri, discussed current racial divides still present in the Namibian school system. Silas explained that she is the only black staff member of one of Windhoek’s top private schools, a school that was formally reserved for white students who were able to pay for an expensive primary education. Silas said that although apartheid officially ended, the school remains overwhelmingly white due to its high fees. Many black and colored students are unable to pay the fees and are therefore kept out of one of the top primary schools in Windhoek. It is clear that even with the abolishment of apartheid, many of its legacies live on through exclusionary practices based on wealth and education. After spending time discussing the issues surrounding race and education in Windhoek, I cannot help but think of its connection to my own involvement with the United States education system. As a classroom assistant in Worcester Public Schools, I witness time and time again as my students from minority groups are placed in the “bad school”, as they call it, because of which neighborhood they live in. On paper, racial divides are illegal and have ceased in both the US and Namibia, but in reality they are prevalent and affecting students on a global scale. Learning about racial tensions in Namibian schools made me realize how two different education systems in two different continents can experience the same discrimination all because of race and wealth.
Haley with her host family dressed in a traditional Herero dress. 

Andrea’s Experience
During my homestay, I also realized that racial divides play another role in Namibian education as well. My host mother, Gisela Kukuri, is a schoolteacher in a predominantly black district. Many of our CGE classes focus on the role apartheid played in segregating communities based on race. These divisions still linger today, as Gisela explained. Many of the areas designated as black regions have become overpopulated, which greatly affects schooling. Schools today face extreme over-enrollment and are forced to turn away hundreds of students looking for a basic education. Schools are doing their best to provide for all students, filling classrooms with fifty students in attempts to enroll as many children as possible. In an almost disheartened tone, Gisela told me that the children being turned away from schools will never have the opportunity the pursue their education in comparison to many of their privileged peers. After spending nearly a week with Gisela, I began to share the sadness surrounding the issue of uneducated youth. I whole-heartedly believe that youth are the future of any nation, but knowing that so many children are being pushed from schools not only robs these children of their dreams but also robs Namibia of a brighter future. Formal education provides opportunities and knowledge that can otherwise be unattainable for populations that have faced and are still facing extreme discrimination. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power, and without education little to no power will ever be attained, and the cycle of discrimination, unemployment, and poverty will continue.
Andrea and her host mother, Gisela. 

Andrea and her two host siblings.

The urban homestay experience gave each of us a chance to examine our own role in race dialogues. We learned about the way in which race is negatively impacting many Namibian students, an issue that the United States struggles to manage as well. Often times it was difficult to engage in conversations about Namibia’s white oppressors with our host families, and made us very conscious of our own race and monetary privilege. We were forced to open our eyes to the juxtaposition between our own comfy upbringings compared to the endless struggle that so many children and their families face in post-apartheid Namibia. Even with our differing homestay ventures, we both came to one solid conclusion: education is a fundamental human right and race should never hinder a child’s access to schools.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Monday, February 16, 2015

Week Three: An Ice Burg of Assumptions

By: Molly McPhee and Abbie Lawrence

Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a pool. It’s a lovely, warm day out and you’re really enjoying the reflection on the water. Your friend jokingly pushes you in and as you enter the water, you come face to face with a myriad of fish. You swim around, getting a feel for the pool, until you decide it’s time to come up for air. However, when you return to your spot on the edge of the pool, you notice that the surface of the water is not as pretty or satisfying as you remember it. Despite your comfortable perch on the side, you realize you have a better view of the fish when you’re in the water, so you dive in again to swim among them and explore the unknown.

This week was akin to the second plunge. In Johannesburg, we were pushed into the deep end.  Arriving in Windhoek was our opportunity to come up for air and take a deep breath. This past week though, we climbed back into the pool at our own pace, and were able to gain a deeper understanding of the unfamiliar city through our lens as new community members. Similarly to the magnitude of an ice burg being discovered beneath the water’s surface, this journey has exposed to us the complexity of life and the realities behind the assumptions we all have made thus far.  These past days have been full of digging deeper to confront our unconscious expectations and assumptions.

Assumptions vs. Reality

We delved further into understanding our role as international students here in Windhoek by participating in an Oshiwambo language class.  The class is designed to prepare us for our rural homestay in March. We took a step deeper into the pool, and we were excited to welcome in a little piece of the unknown so that we could begin to connect with one of the many cultures around us. Although we all have a long way to go before we can confidently speak to anyone, it was great to start to get a sense of one of the languages we have heard around us for the past few weeks. Most people in Windhoek speak more than one language, English being one of them. However for most of us, English is our primary, and only language. This is a widely known fact, and our teacher actually had a joke about it. It goes: “What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks only one language? An American.”

Most Namibians have been incredibly welcoming and warm and speak to us in English, but as community members, it is not only important for us to make an effort to acknowledge the traditional languages of one of the many native cultures, but also to acknowledge that people often go out of their way to accommodate us. As Americans, we often unconsciously abuse our privilege when we neglect to learn the language of the community we are joining, and assume that the people we meet will be able to speak to us in English. This class will be an opportunity to acknowledge that privilege and take one step towards more fully immersing ourselves into our new community.

Molly with our language teacher

Over the course of the week, most of us had moments of realization that as humans, we don’t know what we don’t know until we are confronted with the unknown and have an opportunity to work to better understand our perceptions. We were able to explore this realization more deeply during a day of activities that we fondly nicknamed “emotional team building”. Students and staff alike participated in a variety of identity workshops geared towards getting to know one another as individuals. It quickly became obvious that we didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did, even though we had been living together for the past two weeks. Not only was it useful to get to know one another better, but it was a great opportunity to confront pieces of our own identities and examine the impact they have on our individual actions. The day shed light on the importance of not imposing personal values on other people, but rather listening to one another in order to gain a better understanding of different backgrounds people come from, and the many ways in which past experiences shape worldviews.

The site of our team building activities

Team bonding during a cultural sensitivity activity. 
Throughout this trip, we have been confronted with the realities behind some of the assumptions our friends, families and even ourselves, have previously made about Africa. In fact, it is not a single country, but an entire diverse continent, and we inhabit only a small piece. We have just begun to realize the scope of our ignorance, and it will be exciting to continue to confront the unknown. We will be jumping back into the pool, as we head to our urban homestays this coming week!

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Week Two: So Long, Johannesburg- Hello, Namibia!

By: Miranda Joebgen & Greta Carlson

To wrap up our time in South Africa, we had the opportunity to visit Pretoria, home to Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument – two places that focus on different aspects of South Africa's history.

We began at Freedom Park, which is a memorial for those who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom.  It was established by the South African government as a way of addressing the public's need to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their freedom.  There is an Eternal Flame, which represents all of the unknown victims in the struggle for freedom.  Additionally, there is The Wall of Names, which consists of several lengths of wall. It holds the names of victims from any conflicts South Africa has participated in in the pursuit of freedom and humanity.  There is some controversy surrounding which names were included on the monument, however since it is not technically a war memorial, it is not required that every name from both sides of the conflicts be included.  While there are some who think the wall should be required to hold the names of those who died from both sides of the wars represented, we think that it is important and empowering that the names depicted are of those who were oppressed and without a voice for so long.  It is a vital part of the lengthy healing process, and gives power to those who didn't live to see liberation for South Africa.  The wall is meant to be living, with names being added as they are found or brought to the attention of the committee.  Currently, the wall has 85,000 names, with room for 150,000 names altogether.  As we moved along through Freedom Park, we also visited Sacred Isivivane, which acts as a spiritual resting place for all those who gave their lives.  It is representative of not only tribal religions, but all faiths.
Sacred Isivivane, spiritual resting place

Freedom Park has many aspects, all of which are beautiful and create a peaceful place of remembrance for those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and humanity. In addition to the outdoor exhibits, there is also a high-tech museum, called the //hapo Museum, which depicts Africa's rich history, beginning with ancient times and going all the way through the liberation struggle.
After leaving Freedom Park, we went to take a look at a different way of remembering South Africa's history: the Voortrekker Monument.  The Voortrekker Monument celebrates the Pioneer history of Southern Africa, and depicts the journey of the Dutch settlers.  The inside has 27 wall panels that are carved to represent the events of the Great Trek, which was the journey of the settlers from Cape Town to South Africa.  The building was built at an angle to look bigger than it is, giving it a magnificent appearance.  It is incredibly beautiful, and has an impressive view. 
The Voortrekker Monument
While it is certainly important for all aspects of history to be represented, we couldn't help but feel hesitant standing in the Voortrekker Monument, especially after having just visited Freedom Park.  One represents the culture that eventually led to Apartheid, and one represents those who fought against it.  Seeing such a contrast of how the past, mainly the legacy of colonialism, is remembered provided an important comparison to how we Americans remember colonialism. We celebrate Christopher Columbus and countless other explorers, and we credit them with founding America. Yet countless Native American tribes were forcibly removed and murdered in America's growth. It causes one to stop  and question our patriotism for events that caused so much pain and inequality.  This semester, we as a group are hoping to address these issues, and ask critical questions to develop informed opinions, not only in regards to South African history, but to our own as well.
After spending 10 amazing days in Johannesburg, it was time for us to fly to Windhoek, Namibia – our home for the next 3 months!  We spent Wednesday, January 21st traveling and getting settled at the CGE house, which is absolutely beautiful! 
The lovely CGE house!
On Thursday morning, we began to get to know Windhoek through a driving tour, led by our tour guide, Philah.  One of the main aspects of our tour was visiting the township, Katatura,  which consists of 68% of the Windhoek population.  Katutura means “The place where people do not want to live”, and it was named as such because black people were forced to live there during Namibia's apartheid.  While the name seems oppressing, and one might wonder why the community would choose to keep such a name, they have chosen to embrace the name as their own.  In further explorations of Katutura on Friday, we were shown around the township in small groups led by members of The Young Achievers.  The Young Achievers is an organization that gives youth support as they go through school.  Our guides were college aged, and they showed each group a different NGO in Katutura.  There are amazing groups at work in Katutura, and we had the opportunity to visit NAPPA (Namibia Planned Parenthood Association) and Katutura Soap, as well as a few other organizations.  It was an excellent opportunity to get to know Katutura more, and interact with people rather than concepts.  When you are simply driving through Katatura, or hearing about it's history, it is easy to pity those who live there.  However, there is a great pride surrounding this community, which we heard from the various individuals we interacted with.  They don't view Katatura as a place where they have to live, but as their home. 

We have only just begun our journey into the history and cultures of Namibia.  Currently, we have a surface level knowledge of these subjects that will help us as we move forward with the semester, but we look forward to having the opportunity to learn more about this place and what makes it unique by interacting with people on a personal basis, especially during our Urban homestays, which are fast approaching.  This semester we will be facing many difficult and important subjects, and it will be important for us to approach them with open minds, ready and eager to learn.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at

Week One: Privilege, Positionality and Presumptions

To be completely honest, I don’t think any of us were sure what would happen when we stepped off our plane to South Africa. Though the majority of us likely had pre-expectations of Center for Global Education’s Southern Africa program — perhaps imagining it as a program whose consciousness, while far from perfect, would largely exceed programs of a similar caliber. After having been a part of the CGE experience for just over a week, this certainly seems to be the case. Our experiences on this program have been educational, enlightening, uncomfortable and thought-provoking. Over the course of just one week, we’ve been exposed to a multitude of different perspectives on South Africa’s political economy, from revolutionary communist activists, spokespeople from the U.S. Embassy and the Democratic Alliance, and several individuals involved directly in the liberation struggle. We’ve visited multiple historical sites, all of which have supplemented our subsequent education on apartheid and the false image of South Africa as a “post-apartheid” regime. 
Students got the opportunity to visit the Hector Pieterson Museum and learn more about the youth movement and the Soweto Youth Uprising in 1976.

The Uprising took place just after Afrikkans had been declared the new language of instruction in the schools. 

Molefi, one of our speakers, explaining the significance of the 1976 Youth Uprising and showing the students the route that the youth took. 

Visiting different sites surrounding apartheid and the liberation movement were especially educational, as these were topics that aren’t often talked about in formal education. One of the main things you notice when you drive around Johannesburg is that there are people everywhere, many of whom seem to be just hanging around. We went to a mall on a Tuesday afternoon and it was absolutely mobbed. This can be largely attributed to South Africa’s significant unemployment rate, which in 2014 was at 25.1%, giving South Africa the 9th highest unemployment rate in the world (International Labor Organization). This number is inconceivable, especially for Americans who come from a country where a 10% unemployment is cause for uproar. In discussions with local friends and other South African residents, you start to realize how dire the employment situation is, as many struggle to find even low paying jobs in the service and labor industry. 
Students spending time with their host siblings. 
Another enlightening experience was our Soweto homestay. On Saturday our homestay family took us to a funeral. Unlike in America where funerals are a chance to mourn the death of someone who has passed, South African funerals are a time to celebrate the life of the departed. Funerals are truly a community event as people who don’t even know the deceased come out to show their respects. After a ceremony at a local church the casket was taken out to the street which was lined by students of the teacher who recently passed. The students were literally singing in the streets while the casket was put into a car to be brought over to the cemetery. When we got to the cemetery there were thousands of people milling around all there for different funerals. In South Africa many of the funerals are held on Saturdays allowing everyone who wants to attend to come. The singing continued during the burial and once the casket was lowered into the ground students of the departed teacher all took turns burying the casket. It was really an incredible experience to witness.

Although these experiences were extremely edifying, it’s important to recognize that our acquired knowledge only begins to scratch the surface. Many of us left the country with a much more extensive knowledge of South Africa’s complex political, social, economic and cultural systems than when I arrived. Such an educational experience, however, cannot go unquestioned or uncriticized. Although this program does offer an amazing opportunity for students to better understand the racist and colonial legacies that have been imposed on Southern Africa and how such a violent and oppressive influence has affected the development of the region as a whole, it does not go so far as to equip students with the resources necessary to fully understand the implications of our own positionally within this program. Throughout the week, I found myself questioning the legitimacy of my presence on such a program — in a region rife with voluntourism and imperialist legacies, how the experiences of a privileged white, middle class college student with no legitimate connection to the country be anything other than inappropriate? There were several situations in which my own privilege and problematized presence were quite prevalent — at one point we were driving through Soweto in a tour van, peering into people’s lives as if they were there simply for our own benefit. This, as well as a number of additional experiences, led me to continually question whether I was doing more harm than good. What could possibly justify the exploitation of someone’s poverty to benefit a group of privileged individuals? 

In short, there is no justification, nor will there ever be. However, though during those first few days I had begun to reevaluate my decision to study abroad, I believe that we’ll begin to make steps towards being a less invasive program. I hope to settled into our surrounding community and start discussing awareness of privilege and positionality. In all, I believe that we’ll soon be starting on a path that, if executed correctly, may allow us to both assist our current community in a non-imperialist approach, while simultaneously gaining skills to transform our own education into productive change.

This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at