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 www.centerforglobaleducation.org.

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
(PC: http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/iceberg.jpg)

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 www.centerforglobaleducation.org.

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 www.centerforglobaleducation.org.

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 www.centerforglobaleducation.org.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Week Sixteen: Cape Town

By: Amy Delo and Gaby Gretz

Our week in Cape Town, South Africa has brought us to the end of our four-month journey in Southern Africa. Cape Town is the home of the largest white population in South Africa and it is also known to be a tourist destination. For this reason, Cape Town is very different from Johannesburg and even Windhoek, despite it having some of the same characteristics.       

Many of the themes that we noticed in Namibia were the same that stood out in South Africa, but they were portrayed at very different levels in each country. One of the themes that stood out the most was the legacy of colonization and apartheid and how it related to racial and class inequality. We saw much of this in Cape Town, while driving from the central business district to the townships on the outskirts of the city. It was a common sight to see the wealthier homes out in the open and in the center of the city, while the informal settlements were off hidden somewhere in the distance. 

In addition to the continuing racism we observed walking around Cape Town, we also focus our meetings and guest speakers around the classes we take in Windhoek: Environmental Studies, History, Religion, Politics and Development. During our time in Johannesburg at the very beginning of the semester we mostly focused on History, Politics, and Development as a way to put our minds in the context of Southern Africa. So this trip to South Africa, we shifted to focus more on Religion and the environment.

To kick off our fist day in Cape Town we visited the Way of Life Church to meet with Pastor Xola Skosana. We attended Sunday morning service and then had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Skosana afterwards. This church and this man are infamous for comments that the pastor made a few years ago insinuating that Jesus had HIV. This was quite controversial- but having Pastor Skosana explain what he had meant by that comment opened our minds to the power of religious symbolism to connect to modern day social issues. He compared the way Jesus associated himself with the most downtrodden of society and sought to lift them up with those of modern day southern Africa who are HIV positive- arguably the most marginalized population in ZA. Pastor Skosana was full of life and energy during his sermon and when conversing with us. He was animated and passionate when explaining the realities for those who live in the townships around Cape Town and the plights they still face and what he is doing to try and change that. Whether this be conducting a pastor-swap with a local Dutch Reformed Church, or organizing a march through the townships to raise public awareness of the living conditions there, Pastor Skosana is tireless.

A few days later we visited a Methodist church in town headed by Pastor Alan Storey. This church was extremely progressive- boasting social programs to support the homeless of Cape Town, to Pastor Storey's own efforts to integrate the congregations. From the mere fact that the church houses an on-location coffee shop, to how he recognizes the struggle that his own community is having while adjusting to new members of the church (i.e. non-white members), Alan was straight up with us and didn't try to hide the shortcomings of the church, or its successes. Seeing a white descendant of colonizers who occupies a position of influence in the community be so in touch with his privilege and so passionate about trying to bring about positive change through that influence as beautiful.

Having gone through townships (both in South Africa and Namibia), having seen the huge disparity between rich and poor and how this is still linked to race is incredibly disheartening. Interacting with people who are seemingly complacent is disheartening. Hearing people talk about how they think very little will change for Southern Africa in 20 years is disheartening. It's pretty difficult to be optimistic in this part of the world or any other. Going through the semester it has felt at times that nothing has changed since the end of apartheid. Yes, people are not the victims of formal legal systems which segregate them but there is still so much separation, still so much uncertainty and fear surrounding the 'other', and so much hatred because of this. The idea that nothing has changed and never will is a dark gloomy cloud that hangs over my head when thinking about Southern Africa. But the things that religious leaders like Pastor Skosana and Pastor Storey are doing to engage their communities and the larger society of Cape Town and get people to really think about the inequalities around them… that gives me hope. We met with secular speakers during our time in Cape Town and with other religious officials and centers while here, but these two organizations and individuals stood out through their efforts to improve the surrounding community and their faith that eventually something would change. I could really get behind these two Christian organizations and their social programs, and that's a lot coming from an atheist. Closing out the semester on a note of optimism for the future of Southern Africa was the perfect way to end our semester. 

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

Week Fifteen: The Penultimate Week- Integrative Projects and Thanksgiving

By: Miranda Weinstein & Ben Williams

This week has been filled with a ton of emotions. It was the final week that we would have in Windhoek, and we wanted to fill it with as many things that we had been putting off, or had been unable to do, for the past three months. We went to various restaurants and continued to explore the town as much as we could. In addition to trying to exploring Windhoek, it was also time for our final presentations. Integrative projects are the finals that we have to take here at CGE. The integrative project accounts for approximately thirty percent of our grade, but we have to include material that we have learned in all of our classes. You might think that it is easy to incorporate material from five different classes, but to cram all that material into a twenty minute presentation is a challenge. My group decided to make a children’s book, but still address the issues that are still existing in present day southern Africa, but also addressing the history of Namibia and South Africa, especially addressing apartheid. We decided to make our children’s book revolve around the concept of animals, apartheid and politics, but still trying to keep it light for children in order for them to understand what is going on and the history of southern Africa, and Namibia.

It really was a challenge to incorporate everything we learned in the past three months into a twenty minute presentation, especially when my group had people from all classes. We had to include material from all five classes offered at CGE: Environment, History, Religion, Politics and Development. I still have difficulty wrapping my brain around everything I learned. So including as much from classes in our presentation as we could, took a lot of time. During our presentation, we talked a lot about politics and racial divides. Our presentation for the integrative projects was a children’s book, as I mentioned above. Our book was about an animal kingdom in which the lion had the obvious power. Towards the middle, the other animals take over control as they did not like how the lion was abusing its assumed power. After the coup, a new government was established by the other animals, where total democracy and complete equality occurred.
Miranda presenting her groups book, Equipose.

In our book, that we entitled Equipose, we decided to analyse a lot of the history of southern Africa and Namibia. We made the animals correlate with different races during the apartheid era. The lion represented the majority of the white population, the elephant represented the majority of the Indian population in South Africa, the zebra represented the majority of the coloured population in both states, and the warthog represented the black population. We thought that it would be important to correlate the races with different animals to invoke a lot more thinking in the minds of the children. We tried to make it relatively clear for people that might have understood the apartheid era, but not extremely explicit for the children in order to invoke that thought process. In addition to choosing animals to portray out main characters, we decided to approach the concept of democracy. After our animals had their coup de eta, they decided to create a democratic government. We decided to approach this type of government because we thought it would be the best way to plant the seed in the child’s brain. Furthermore, we were able to include all elements of our classes into the book and be able to relate everything we learned to a child and their desire to learn more. We were hoping that our book would be read to children in elementary school and would enable them to ask a lot more questions about the status of the world. We left the ending of the book up for interpretation because we were hopeful that the future of Namibia and South Africa would change a lot in the next 5 years, and so the child would be able to apply it to life, politics, race and power are in the future.

Another important part of the integrative project was the sense of community that arose from it. During the project presentations, we had people come and listen to what we were presenting that were not just from the academics of CGE. We had some friends come, as well as people from our internships, and some speakers from our classes. Having these individuals be there for the culmination of our semester was great because it made me feel as though we made a difference in how they viewed the world. The sense of community and family was very important for us because of how far away from our own communities and families at home and outside of Namibia. In addition to the sense of community that we felt from each other within the program as well as outside of the program, we also felt a great sense of community and family during Thanksgiving, which also happened during the week of Integrative Projects.

Even though our thanksgiving was not enjoyed in the United States, we still had a fantastic time cooking, being thankful and enjoying each other’s company. After finishing our integrative projects earlier in the week, we eagerly anticipated Turkey day. This day was unlike any other we shared throughout the semester. Instead of the staff preparing the day for the students, we prepared the entire day for the staff. We cooked, cleaned and prepped everything for the big dinner. We woke up early, some of us earlier than others, to begin prepping for the meal. Including staff and students, we had eighteen people to cook for. Luckily enough, every student spearheaded creating their own dish, while some others took on multiple projects. I made macaroni and cheese and candied yams, two staple Thanksgiving foods in my house. Besides those two, we had almost any other Thanksgiving food imaginable, from turkey to stuffing to the always sweet pumpkin pie. Once the meal was finally ready, student and staff sat down at the dinner table and broke bread together. While no one was with their biological family that night, I can speak for all of us when I say that it was still a family dinner. Our CGE Fall 2014 family was just a strong as any blood bonds. Forged together by shared experiences and a global outlook, we shared conversations about our semester activities. From rural and urban homestays to our spring break in Swakopmund, to game drives in Etosha, the entire span of our semester came up.  We shared wonderful stories of how our family came to be so just that, a family. In my family, on Thanksgiving, we each talk about the events and people in our lives that we are thankful for. While I did not have the opportunity to continue this tradition, it seemed that everyone was clearly thankful for the many opportunities and experiences we shared. 
Staff and students enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.

By the time dinner ended and when our bellies were full of scrumptious food, we recounted how lucky and grateful we were. Being in Namibia, we have been able to view much of the economic inequality that is spread throughout the country, in rural and urban areas. The large amount of food we had, our lovely house and the subsequent swim that happened after dinner made us all extremely conscious of our privilege. Once we recognized this privilege that we have, we can then take the next step to try to break it down, so that others without it can have the same opportunities that we are afforded. 

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

Week Fourteen: Wrapping Up

By: Margaret Prunty and Celeste Erickson

With weeks winding down in Windhoek, our group participated in wrap up to end all classes. We had discussions about everything we learned in classes and what we thought went well, the speakers we enjoyed, and ways to improve. In history, we had a powerful discussion about race and Romanus gave us an analogy of how we are all members on a walk way in regards to racism. Basically, he talked about how those of us who are walking along with the walkway are perpetuating racism, but if we turn around and walk against it, we are advocating for change to stop it. There are many in betweens, but those are the two extremes and we can all be walking against racism, but that is where the challenge is. It’s easier to be against racism, but not take an active approach in stopping it and we are all called to walk against the racism walkway in making change for the bettering of the society. 

Also, in religion class, we discussed social change and how the church played different roles during colonization, apartheid, and the liberation struggle. We talked about how different texts were used to both promote and condemn colonization. It gave us insight about how differently the Bible can be interpreted and how religion can be used as a crutch for good and evil. We agreed that religion is very personal and varies all across the board, but it is up to us how we use it.

Now, we move on to integrative projects, where we incorporate everything we learned from each class into a creative presentation and deliver it. I am excited to see how each group’s project turns out and all the different variations. My group has decided to compose a children’s book that talks about equality. Right now, our plan is to read the story and discuss how it relates to all the classes. I anticipate that all the projects will be successful in brushing on a theme from each class and I look forward to the delivery of each one of them.

On top of the final wrap of classes and integrative projects, another event of note this week was the ending presentations of our internship class. On Tuesday, all seven members of the internship program presented their final research papers. Our assignment was to write about a topic that can connect both to our area of study at school and the work we’ve been doing at our specific internship site, and to connect this topic to other areas of the world. Our projects ranged from the link between secondary education and alcoholism, to the power of media on public perception. Each of the seven girls worked very hard on their papers, and the presentations were extremely informative and interesting. On that Thursday, CGE hosted an internship farewell party where each student stood and gave a brief speech on their accomplishments at their internship and said thank you to their host organizations. Though we all felt a sense of accomplishment and relief at the end of the long internship process as we were each presented with different challenges throughout our three months at our organizations. 
Celeste presenting about her internship at the farewell party!

For many of us, it was the first time working with an NGO or even working in an office setting. We had to adapt to a new way of working and learn the ins and outs of each of our organizations. Beyond this, I speak for all seven of us when I say we had to remain patient and flexible, and take a significant amount of initiative. Different from an internship we may have in the United States, most of us felt very unclear on what our roles were throughout the semester.  Between the language barrier and the general busyness within such important organizations, there was often a lack of communication. We all realized that if we wanted to get the most out of our time interning, we had to step up and take initiative. For example, in my particular internship I had a desire to work more in the field with the families and children that SOS Children’s Village assists, and to spend less time in the office. I took the initiative to meet the field officer and work out a schedule so I could have the opportunity to work with her. Though we all had to adjust to unpredictability, the skills that we gained are invaluable. While the CGE house offers a comfortable and fun environment for us to learn and bond with our fellow American students, this internship opportunity gave us the unique opportunity to not only get out into the community, but meet the individuals that make up this community and work alongside them for three months. There is no better way to truly learn about a country and a culture different from your own than connect with the community and get a better idea of some of the challenges they face today and potential solutions for them.

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