Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Kristin Rogers, Kayla Griffin, Liz Mook

We thought this week would be a less exciting week of transitioning between returning to the CGE house from our homestays and departing for Swakopmund, but we were pleasantly surprised by a few of the experiences we had while anticipating our trip to the coast. The two experiences that impacted us the most were the trip to The Gymnasium, Namibia's number one private school, and hearing the story of Pauline Themba.

As we were driving to The Gymnasium we jokingly asked Urbanus whether the brick building resembling a castle or resort was the school we were going to. Much to our surprise, it was. The school looked much different than the few other schools we had seen which had, for the most part, been ones that served students in informal settlements and black townships. For me (Kayla) this was a radical change from my experiences at the remedial school program I intern at that serves many children in the squatter camps of Katutura. Early this week, I was surprised that they put the trust into me to lead a math program and not only that, but that they couldn't even find enough pencils for all the children to have one. They had to share pencils to do their math work. At "recess" time I was surprised to see the kids becoming very excited when the teachers brought out games made out of shoeboxes and cool drink bottle tops. So, coming to Gymnasium, this huge castle of a private school, was tremendously shocking to me. It seemed unreal that one group of children in Namibia were getting in fights over sharing a pencil to do their work, while another group of children in the same country had access to Smart Boards in every classroom, a computer lab, a science lab, and many other luxuries and technologies. One group of children had learned to be content with shoeboxes and bottle caps, while others had access to music and athletic lessons. The Gymnasium field trip left me very conflicted. I don't want to take the educational opportunities that Gymnasium offers away from any child, as education is a key factor to the success of a person's future. However, it just seems that if one person should get this education, all children should. Otherwise disparity will continue as a person's future is already mapped out for them.

(Photo: The Gymnasium, the number one private school in Namibia, and recipient of Gold and Platinum education awards.)

Thursday morning we went to the beautiful Heroes Acre Monument, a tribute to many of the political heroes of the liberation struggle. The monument consisted of an obelisk and a lot of steps leading up to the obelisk that contained the graves of the heroes. At the top of the steps was a statue of Sam Njoma, the first president of Namibia, and at the foot of the steps there was an eternal flame symbolic of the memory of the heroes that will live on forever. We spent some time climbing the stairs, enjoying the beautiful weather and taking some great photos of the Windhoek scenery before begrudgingly getting back on the bus. We even tried to convince Romanus to conduct the rest of the class at the monument. Had we known how influential the speaker we were about to hear was going to be, we would have readily returned to class. We were visited by Pauline Themba, a woman from the organization, Breaking the Wall of Silence and as soon as she started speaking we were captivated by her heart-wrenching story. Pauline was taken from her family, placed in exile, and tortured for 3 years as a political prisoner of SWAPO, the party she was previously a member of and with whom she was working towards liberation. We were shocked beyond words when she told us that after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Germany the only difference she saw between that and her experiences in the dungeons was that there were no ovens to burn the bodies in the dungeons. Almost as disturbing as her recollection of her experiences was the fact that SWAPO still refuses to admit that this ever happened, and thus much of the public is unaware or disbelieving of Pauline's story, and many people even still consider her to be a traitor. Our usually bubbly and social group was in such awe that you could have heard a pin drop. After hearing Pauline's story and learning about the Herero genocide, Liz and I left history class wondering what other parts of Namibia's history have been left out of the history books and hidden from society by those in power. It also left us curious about how these omissions have impacted society and the way Namibians as well as the international community think about and react to current events and social life.

The Heroes Acre Monument that contains many graves of political leaders and important people in the liberation struggle.

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