Thursday, December 11, 2014
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.
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.
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.
By: Nikala Pieroni and Harry Summers
This past week the Environment class conducted a research project focused on environmental impacts in the informal settlement Kilimanjaro around Windhoek. The class was split into two groups, each focusing on either water and sanitation or energy use in the settlement. In order to collect the data necessary to conduct the research we walked around the settlement and interviewed a total of over forty residents using both a simple random sample and cluster research techniques. The interviews were conducted through translators who were members of the Young Achievers, a group of young adult community activists. The use of the translators presented a bit of a challenge as each translator would ask a question in a slightly different manner. This then had some effect on the response that would be given. However challenging this experience was, it was also one of the greatest exposures to the everyday struggles of many Namibians.
Walking through the informal settlements gave us an entirely new perspective on what it means to have a government fail its citizens. Person after person that we interviewed complained that the government had not done enough to ease the new residents of Windhoek into the rest of the society. There was not enough trash collection, let alone trash bins to keep the overflowing garbage from being tossed all over the settlement by the wind and the dogs. The toilets were all public toilets used by multiple houses and were usually either broken or so dirty that one was not safe to use them without being exposed to disease. There were also not enough water taps close enough to the people to be used efficiently and thus presented another hurdle the people had to overcome. For example, some residents stated that it took them close to thirty minutes to walk, collect the water, and return to their homes. This compared with the easy access we experience everyday gave us a stark new appreciation for how fortunate we have been to have something like running water. In addition to this, residents had prepaid cards that allowed them to receive water, but if their card ran out before they had all the water they needed, then they were unable to get more until the card was refiled.
We considered how these challenges around water were complicated by the scarcity of water in the country. Since Namibia is a highly arid country, it is very expensive for the government to get water to the citizens from their limited resources, so providing water to all who need it is a difficult project. The government also does not currently have the type of money required to care for all these people, but it was challenging to watch the citizens in such strenuous circumstances and not get very angry at the government for their inability to provide. In reality, it seems that it is not the providing of more toilets and taps that people truly need, although this would definitely be beneficial to the problem short term. It is the providing of economic stability that would allow citizens to buy their own houses, which would create access to personal toilets and taps, and the stability to pay for these services. Two things currently seem to stand in the way of this for Namibia, while talking to a Namibian friend we discovered that Namibian housing prices are some of the highest in the world compared to the salaries of the people. This means that not only those who have stable long term jobs can’t afford housing, struggling families with limited pay cannot either. The second thing getting in the way are just how few jobs there are in Namibia. We have heard often that unemployment in Namibia is around 30%, and according to some citizens it is realistically around 50%, and we saw this very harsh reality in Kilimanjaro, where so many said that they were either unemployed, or not regularly employed. These people were obviously smart and capable, they were able bodied and many had sensable and articulate ideas for how to solve issues in the community. But there was simply no jobs provided in the country. Without these, the citizens had nothing to do but take care of their home, their family, and hope that something would be done to assist them in the access to healthy water and sanitation usage.
These water and trash issues are dangerous to the health of citizens, and we are hoping that at the very least something will be done for short term solutions to making the citizens space for living at least more sanitary for the sake of lowering illness rates. This was especially a worry of ours for children who we observed doing things that could potentially be drastically harmful for their health. Children were playing in a pool of water that had been concocted by the combination of water from a leaky toilet and a leaky tap. This water was still, and filled with mold, and trash. We also observed children who were putting rusty nails and dirty piece of plastic into their mouths. It seemed that these habits might be due to the lack of activities for children there. Without money for water, there would obviously be no money for toys. We asked one of the mothers if she knew the water her son was playing in was unsafe, and she said yes, but did not do anything about it. We were worried by this, but realized that there are probably so many stresses that come from the constant maintenance of an unsolid home, and so few ways to entertain her children, that leftovers and small pools were the only ways her kids would have something to do.
This experience left us in somewhat disbelief as we were left with more questions than real answers. How could a government that had been in power for close to twenty-five years leave its people to suffer so much? There is a very prevalent need for jobs in Namibia but more specifically in Windhoek, and from what we witnessed there was plenty of work to be done to improve and build the city from the ground up. From waste management jobs such as more frequent trash pick up to construction jobs to build an enormous amount of necessary infrastructure throughout the informal settlements. During the Great Depression when America’s unemployment was at a disastrous level the government started massive infrastructure projects to both give the country’s citizens jobs but also to build the majority of the highways and bridges that still exist today. My advice to the Namibian government would be to implement a similar mass employment project. This would give the people living in the informal settlements the ability to invest in their children's education as well as improve their own standard of living, both resulting in a more prosperous country in the present and the future.
With one month left in Southern Africa, the CGE students are beginning to feel the ticking of time. It is incredible to realize we have been away from home, away from our normal lives, away from families and friends, and on this exciting adventure for nearly three months. Being here, in southern Africa, in Namibia, in the CGE house has become our new normal. So the idea of leaving the lives we have built here is strange and a point of some anxiety. In the past week, one question has come up again and again: "What is still left that you would like to accomplish before you leave? What can you do to ensure these hopes become realities?"
This was asked at our weekly community meeting, in casual conversations over dinner, and even at our middle of the semester retreat to reconnect the students and staff. Our answers to this question encompass the wide range of desires we have in our study abroad experiences. We want to experience more cultural activities, like making an effort to attend events and exhibitions which will broaden our knowledge of Namibian society. This week included a trip to the National Art Museum, a night at a spoken word poetry show, and a fashion show presented by the University of Namibia. This was particularly interesting after the speaker we had in history class. As a CEO of large company working in Namibia, he framed every aspect of the country into a business. He referred to Africa as the next continent with the largest consumer potential. He seemed to be certain that consumerism was growing in Namibia, and that Jay-Z had more influence in buying habits than any politician could. He pointed out the fact that many luxury brands were establishing themselves in Africa, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Lamborghini. He seemed certain that the goal of the youth in Africa was to make money in order to purchase these luxury goods. We nodded our heads in agreement for the most part. We had seen the way young Namibians valued brand name clothing, sporting t-shirts with the “LV” symbol or the Polo pony. We noticed this even in the lower income communities. That’s why it was so refreshing to see some of the Namibians of our generation producing art and expressing themselves in the artistic process. Despite the growing consumerism, the youth of Africa were still taking the time to create and innovate on a personal level.
We also want to adventure around and explore the fun we can have here by hiking nearby Kaiser Wilhelm mountain, going paintballing, and spending our time exploring downtown. The city is ours for the next month, and we intend to take advantage of the three weeks we have in Windhoek (the longest stretch we've been at 'home' since the end of September).
The mid-semester reconnect was a great opportunity to think critically about how we want to spend our final month in Southern Africa, and to do this by remembering why we signed up for the program in the first place. We expressed the desire to go somewhere off the regular study-abroad path- none of us students were content to spend our one chance to study abroad in a society that was largely similar to ours (that meant no Australia, no United Kingdom, not the West). A semester in a Western country sounded too comfortable, too familiar, too similar to our own culture. With (for most of us) our one chance to study in a different place, we wanted to go somewhere off the beaten study away path. It was a chance to go somewhere we might not ever have the opportunity to go again. We spoke of wanting to challenge ourselves and be out of our comfort zones. And trust us, we live outside of our comfort zones, but have somehow grown comfortable with the unfamiliar. We remembered when everything about studying abroad was exciting, and shiny, and new. The first month in Windhoek everything was exciting and we were constantly having wonderful new experiences. And we still do, but the idea of having a new, challenging experience every day that we wouldn’t get at home is in and of itself something we got used to. Being at the retreat allowed us to rejuvenate the trust and communication between student and staff at the Centre for Global Education, and the enthusiasm we felt at the beginning of the program for studying the history, politics, religion, development, and environment of Southern Africa.
|Frederick and Freddy working together to arrive at their destination.|
|Ben and Amy reflecting on the semester.|
As we try to manage getting the most out of our final three weeks in Windhoek we are also engaging in a balancing act to also learn as much as we can within the classroom. Over the next few weeks our feet will be busy running us all over town trying to soak up as much of Windhoek as possible, while our minds will be constantly working to process, organize, and analyze the information we have accumulated over the semester from our classes and excursions. Of course, the beautiful part is we often do both at the same time. It is impossible to wander around Windhoek without connecting what we learn in the classroom to what we see on the streets. This will be essential as we begin our integrative projects. It will be a challenge to synthesize all the knowledge we’ve acquired in and outside the classroom. So as we head into the end of the semester and packing our bags, perhaps our blog readers will ask themselves what they still wish to accomplish in the next four and a half weeks. Many of us came to Namibia with personal goals we hoped to accomplish. Let us not evaluate whether or not we have met these goals, but strive to be content with our experience and save the reflection for when we return. The worry of coming up short has definitely crossed our minds, but we’ve undoubtedly learned a number of lessons here that we had never planned. Thanks, Windhoek. You’ve been great.
By: Kumari Lewis and Ben Williams
Migration is something that seems to come naturally to humans and animals. We began as nomads, moving from place to place following our food sources as they too moved but we eventually began to settle down and establish more permanent, immobile ways of life. Animals never ceased to migrate and probably never will as they continue to fulfill their basic needs for sustenance and suitable weather conditions through constant movement. It seems as though, for a time, migration became stigmatized: only those too uncivilized to sustain a sedentary lifestyle, such as animals, would migrate. But eventually the human desire to learn and discover new things overtook the stigma and explorers set out to traverse the oceans and greater distances than ever before.
Nowadays curiosity is what drives many of us to travel. I believe that is the mainreason most of us on this trip decided to study in Namibia for the semester: a basic desire to explore the world. But it is sometimes easy to forget just how many thousands and millions of people are forced to travel, to migrate because of dangerous political, economic, and social situations in their home country. This past week in our Politics of Development class we were visited by immigrants from Zimbabwe, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a Namibian who had immigrated to the Unites States for ten years but recently returned. Curiosity may have played a role in their migration, or at least hope that Namibia would provide a better life for them, but ultimately many of them were forced to leave their countries because of such dire political and economic circumstances.
Having lived in the "western developed" world my entire life, the concept of living in a country where: the currency is literally abandoned because it has become so inflated, the government is so corrupt that millions of public funds disappear annually into the pockets of politicians, or people live in fear of speaking or writing anything against the government because they may be imprisoned or simply disappear, all of these situations are so foreign to me and yet these are the heart wrenching realities of the immigrants we spoke with. It is one thing to read statistics in a textbook about how corrupt and inefficient some government regimes are but it is entirely different to speak with men and women who have had the personal experience and struggled for freedom but have yet to establish a supportive lifestyle for themselves and their families. The statistics show that Namibia is a middle income country, but in reality there is a huge wealth disparity, and immigrants are often falling on the losing end of that disparity. Even very well, if not over qualified immigrants are often denied jobs simply because of their nationality. Namibia has an unofficial unemployment rate of 50% thus it makes sense that the government would want to employ Namibians instead of ‘foreigners’ but it seems that Namibians who are significantly less qualified are receiving jobs instead of immigrants purely because of their nationality. There is a brain drain from immigrant host countries because people have hope that they will be able to use their qualifications elsewhere, but ultimately Namibia is more concerned with hiring Namibians instead of the most qualified applicant so the host country of immigrants loses knowledge and Namibia fails to take advantage of it. So while the idea of hiring Namibians to reduce Namibian unemployment is at first glance a great tactic, delving deeper reveals that these policies may not actually improve Namibia’s economy as much as they hope to.
After the short time that we have spent in Namibia that actually feels like a lifetime, it has become painfully obvious that things, particularly politics and economics are not what they may first seem. There is much more to see and understand than what is on the surface, and our immersive experience in Southern Africa has allowed us to delve deeper and discover so many new things about ourselves and the societies that make up this wonderful place we call Namibia.
This past week at CGE Namibia has been quite a lively one, ripe with speakers and trips that begin to define our experiences here in Windhoek. Week ten in Windhoek is just past the halfway point, so it’s far enough along for us to begin to think of some defining experiences that we will take back with us to our respective colleges and universities. One of the reasons I was attracted to this program was because of its captivating title: Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind. Two critical components that comprises all of the aspects of the title are politics and political institutions. At the forefront of the aforementioned is Namibian’s governance, its three tiered system, fit with executive, legislative and judicial branches. Our Politics class reading for the week summed up the process of and adoption of Namibia’s constitution. The constitution was adopted in February of 1990, the same year Namibia won its independence. It was with this information under our belts that we took a trip to Namibia’s Parliament in downtown Windhoek. Namibia’s Parliamentary building sits atop a hill in Windhoek, overlooking Parliament Gardens, an immaculately kept garden with colorful flora.
As we entered the Parliamentary building, we were met by our host David. He proceeded to show us around the buildings while providing us with a wealth of knowledge about Namibia’s Parliament and parliamentary procedures. Here’s a brief snippet: Parliament currently has 72 members, 37 of which constitute a quorum; it is in session from February – July and August – November, meeting Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.; the dominant party is SWAPO, which holds an overwhelming majority; there are two houses: the National Assembly and the National Council; the National Assembly makes laws, while the National Council advises the National Assembly on the laws it makes. One of the most prominent aspects of the tour that stood out to our group was the participatory aspect of Parliament. It has an open door policy which allows for citizens to sit in on sessions, as well as question their representatives about issues at hand with the session and legislation. However, despite this fantastic opportunity, our guide informed us that not many people show up to the sessions. Trying to understand why this is the case is something that has baffles me. I understand that many people lead busy lives, but especially for such a newly independent nation, it seems that many who fought with arms twenty five years ago, would use this a a resource to make their country a better place. On the other hand, with the ruling party, SWAPO, having such a firm grasp on politics now, I can understand why citizens would simply assume that SWAPO’s agendas would just pass, which is what has happened.
|CGE students visit parliament!|
At the end of the day, it is easy for me as a foreigner to criticize Namibians for not going and participating in their own Parliament, but it is crucial to try and understand the thought process that goes into decision making.Further, non-participation in political processes is not a foreign concept to me as an United States voter. During presidential election years, voter turnout is around sixty percent of all registered voters across. For midterm elections like the ones that just took place, turnout is even lower. This is abysmal. Furthermore, just from hearing some of the rhetoric from each country, it seems as if voters in both countries, at times, do not feel as if their vote will count. More than likely one single vote will not make a difference in an election, however if this ideal becomes pervasive than these voters collectively will make a difference in their inaction.
During the rural homestay a few weeks back, my host mom told me that SWAPO could do no wrong in her eyes since they fought for the liberation of this country. Throughout the semester we have encountered many people with this thought process, so it is easy to understand why some people do not participate. Because of the liberation struggle, they see political leaders as their brothers and sisters, thus, they feel that the politicians have their best interest at heart. Namibians and immigrants alike seem to invest much faith in the Namibian government, society, and economy. And despite SWAPO’s wrongs Namibia is still seen by many as a greener pasture, a country of significantly more opportunities than their home country that they would leave everything behind to start over in Namibia.
This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at www.centerforglobaleducation.org.
By: Celeste Erickson and Freddy Lindekugel
After a relaxing weekend on the coast, we hopped in the van on Sunday morning to drive up north to our rural homestays in Khorixas, Namibia. I was so nervous as they were dropping each one of us off. We had been well prepped for what we could expect with life on a rural farm, and we had a box of food that we brought with us to supplement our families food supply. But no amount of prep could have eased my nerves at this point. I had no idea what to expect, between the lack of electricity and running water, to the language barrier. We took a few short language classes prior to our departure to learn how to greet in Khoekhoegowab, the language of the Damara people that we would be staying with. It is an extremely hard language to learn as it has four different clicks used when speaking. Despite having these language classes and practicing all of our greetings beforehand, we still felt overwhelmed and nervous for the challenges that this may present. Luckily, each family had at least one member that knew English and could translate.
When I first arrived, I was introduced to the family’s four kids, two of them were 1 year old and two of them were 6 years old, and the rest of the extended family. In total, there were 13 people living there. It is not uncommon for rural families to share a house with multiple generations, as family and community is extremely important in the Damara culture, no matter how small the space. Many of the students’ houses were full and a grandmother, or Oma headed most houses. The first night took some adjusting. With the lack of running water, bathing (or lack there of) and going to the bathroom was certainly an adventure and took some adjustment as well.
The real challenge came on Monday night when my family insisted that they slaughter a goat to welcome me to their farm. Goats and cattle generally serve as an indicator of how much the family has, so being able to sacrifice a goat was a big deal and meant a lot to the family. Watching the slaughter was one of the hardest moments I’ve had all semester. I politely declined after they cooked it, but I made sure to thank them for sharing this tradition with me. I was surprised that they were willing to sacrifice one of their goats given the challenges that their farm seemed to be facing. In our environmental science class, we have been taking about the impacts of climate change on Southern Africa, and specifically how these changes affect rural communities. I was able to see these effects first hand on their farm as they explained that they did not milk their goats or their cows currently because it was so dry and they did not have enough to eat. Given the realities of these environmental effects, I was not expecting them to give up one of their goats. I was struck by how unphased the family seemed to be, despite the fact that their farm wasn’t necessarily producing all that they might need. It made me think a lot about how much they need to adapt to their environment in order to survive. In their lifestyle, they have very little control over what goes on around them, but they seemed to adapt so smoothly and calmly-- something that I know that I need to work on. I tried to learn from their relaxed nature, and tried to embrace it as much as possible even in the moments I felt that we were not doing much.
The rest of the week continued relatively smoothly. Not without challenges, but I began to remind myself to appreciate the little moments. Every night I would look up at the stars– the sky was perfectly clear and I have never seen so many stars. Many of us got to ride donkeys, drive a donkey cart, milk cows and goats, and even hold baby goats! On the last day, we had a party with all the students’ families. All of the girls wore traditional dresses and some of us even got our hair braided. The boys were nice suits and ties, despite the heat! We also learned some of their traditional songs and dances, and some of us made short speeches in Khoekhoegowab. After a week, we were all dirty and tired, but we didn’t care, it was worth the experience. It was such an incredible opportunity to get an in depth look at life on a farm and the Damara culture, and I speak for all of the students when I say we were grateful to the families for taking us in. It’s not an experience just any tour group could have, and it was something that forced each one of us to embrace and connect with the community. I felt like taking this week out of our lives to learn the way of life and the traditional culture of a group of people gave us a better sense of what it means to grow up and live in Namibia. Though we have endless amenities accessible to us in Windhoek, that is not the reality of the whole country and it was good for us to see that first hand. Though we all faced challenges, whether that be the sanitation or food, I know that we all came out feeling accomplished and it is an experience we will never forget.
In addition to our homestay, we also had the opportunity to tour the city of Khorixas, situated about twenty kilometers from the farms. We visited several locations in order to get a better sense of the community. On Monday, we visited the Red Cross Center and talked about their various services regarding sexual health and childcare. They also showed us a sustainable garden they had planted. Later that day, we visited a local high school. There we watched the school choir perform, chatted with students, and toured the facilities. Finally, we visited the town council and discussed issues of the implementation of certain commodities, the interactions between wildlife and farmers, and new various housing projects.
On Wednesday, we visited the Damara Living Museum. It was fascinating to be able to perform some of the daily tasks including scraping goat hair from the hide and starting a fire. Later that day, we visited Twyfelfontein, a natural spring occurring within the mountains. There were also my rock carvings in the shapes of various animals. Some of them were dated to be thousands of years old.
Monday was especially significant as we viewed some of the inner city development. It was interesting to talk to the students of the high school and learn of some of the stereotypes of the United States and see the education system in place, as it’s been identified as a major issue in Namibia. In addition, our conversations with the town council were especially eye opening, as the new housing projects seemed to be quite reminiscent of the policies enacted in Swakopmund. The houses seemed nice, but they were hardly affordable for the homeless. Monday worked to create a comprehensive study of Khorixas in terms of its responses to issues such as HIV/AIDS, education, and housing.
In our time in Khorixas and the mountains we gained a more comprehensive picture of the surrounding area of our homestay. Our idea of Khorixas quickly changed as we met students and other pivotal members of the community. The historical background in tandem with the visits in the community worked to create a complete picture of our environment. It was interesting to hear some of the community members talk about going into the city. It wasn’t a metropolis and was still the center of activity. We knew this from experience.
Our week in Khorixas definitely took us out of our comfort zones. It was invaluable to not only get a glimpse of the farm life but also of the community in Khorixas. I will always be thankful for the way our families welcomed us into their homes. Amase ta ge ko gangan sadu omsa IIoba ambates amsi!