Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Week Six: Lions and Cheetahs and Learning - Oh My!

by: Olivia Cook, Lia Wellen, Richie Wehman III, Nathanael Juliot

We are settling into our routine at the Center for Global Education and Experience here in Windhoek, Namibia. Most of our classes involve either speakers or field trips which enhances our learning and understanding of Southern Africa and most specifically Namibia in terms of history, politics, development, religion, and environment. In this post we will tell you about some of these engaging class experiences! We felt weird taking pictures of the speakers, but we have some pictures of the Environment & Sustainability class field trip, which is more exciting anyways! Why is it more exciting? Keep on reading to see!

Clearance the lion roaring for his dinner.
Following an incredibly rewarding week-long urban homestay, the CGEE students were ready to attack the new week. On Monday the Environmental and Sustainability class had the great pleasure of visiting the N/a’an ku se Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary, located just 42 km east of Windhoek. Upon our arrival the tour guides drove our group out to visit a San Bushmen family that periodically stays at the sanctuary to educate tourists about their traditional lifestyle. The San people took us around the land to showcase their traditional hunter-gatherer techniques, as well as the way they utilize plants for holistic healing purposes. It was a tremendous learning opportunity, but many members of our group felt conflicted about the implications of our experience as the San people were removed from their lands and are now considered the most marginalized community in Namibia, forcing them to commodify their culture to tourists. Shortly following the tour, our group was off to visit and learn about the Wildlife Sanctuary. Through the visitation of different animals such as lions, wild dogs, baboons, cheetahs and leopards, our class was able to get a much better idea as to how N/a’an ku sĂȘ has successfully been able to protect wildlife and their habitats. The sanctuary provides a haven and second chance for countless injured, orphaned, and abused animals. It’s the organization's goal to release every animal free so they can live a natural life in the wild, but that sadly isn’t always the case. We learned that the release or rehabilitation is not always possible due to the severity of an animal's injury or habituation to humans, all serving as a threat to their safety if they were to be released. One highlight of the trip was being able to witness Clarence, the male lion, soar into the air to snatch his dinner. It was extraordinary seeing him viciously mark his territory and establish his dominance.
Beautiful snapshot of one of the cheetahs

On Tuesday March 1st Mr. Phil Ya Nangoloh spoke in our History class, entitled “Race & Racism in Southern Africa and the U.S.”. Mr. Ya Nangoloh is a human rights activist and director and co-founder of NamRights. He described NamRights as a monitoring and advocacy human rights organization that can be compared to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, except that NamRights operates on a national, rather than international, scale. NamRights also gives paralegal services of which most cases are either people dismissed in the private sector or women seeking complaints against their male counterpart.

His task was to explain his understanding of discrimination and racism in Namibia and Southern Africa currently and historically. Mr. Ya Nangoloh claims that Namibia has historically been a victim of state racism, having undergone both German and South Africa occupation, the latter of which engulfed Namibia into apartheid. He spoke of how the Namibian constitution is extremely liberal and has very good human rights components, but that these laws are not effectively implemented in Namibia, if at all. The main point Mr. Ya Nangoloh made was that since the end of apartheid, and the liberation struggle, the way in which discrimination plays out has changed. During the liberation movement there was one common enemy to fight against, which was South Africa and the apartheid regime. Now, as this one enemy has technically been conquered, discrimination stems from wealth inequality, racism, and the scramble for scarce resources. Discrimination, now, he explained, comes from within societies or communities rather than from outside. He concluded on what I thought was a grounding note. He said that “racism is an innate and human nature, but there are good people doing things about it, like you and me”. We have been struggling with learning about all the awful disgraces of both the United States and Southern Africa, and it was nice to hear a “realistic” view on things, that there is discrimination but that there are people working to combat it. 

On Wednesday March 2, we had a very interesting speaker visit our Development class. Herbert Jauch, a German expat and political activist in Windhoek, has spent the last couple years studying income inequality in Namibia. The beginning of his presentation explained key points of Namibian history and eventually evolved to explain how income inequality is a product of old historical systems still prevalent today. After setting the foundation for today’s inequalities, Jauch continued to explain a study that was conducted in hopes of alleviating poverty in Namibia. This social experiment, set in a small village south of Windhoek, focused on people who earn so little that basic necessities, such as education and health care, are inaccessible. A solution to these problems was an idea called a Basic Income Grant. This monthly grant of N$100 (US$ 6.25) was given out to every person in the area regardless of income or age in order to help cover basic costs of school books, registration fees, small health needs, or other costs that would help families access services and improve their quality of life. One staggering statistic Jauch shared with us was that in this community 60% of kids dropped out of school because they were hungry, but after the BIG was implemented, 95% of kids completed school. He also shared various benefits such as increased visits to clinics, and malnutrition dropping by half within a year of this grant. Unfortunately leaders at the time did not appreciate the success rates as much as Jauch and his organization did, and plans to continue this idea nationwide are at a standstill.

The idea of a monthly income grant fit well with what we have been covering in our Development class, specifically ideas of poverty alleviation and cases of well-intentioned development projects that do more hurt than harm. Jauch’s presentation was an interesting example of a poverty alleviation strategy and I was intrigued by the both the positive outcome and some ramifications such as the conclusion that programs like this are hard to implement regionally because of family members who migrated to the area to benefit as well. Another point Jauch made was that social welfare programs are generally stigmatized and by providing every individual with an equal grant stigmas are avoided and people are empowered to live healthier lives. Many people in the United States dislike the terms socialism and social welfare, but this speaker highlighted how these ideas can be helpful to society and gave me a case study I can use to support new ideas of aid implementation that I can share with others. Overall, I was very impressed by our speaker; his comments added insight into what we have been studying and local poverty alleviation efforts to combat a nationwide problem.

On Friday March 4th, the Religion and Social Change class had a guest speaker visit named Reverend Gotthard Gurirab. Reverend Gurirab is a faculty member at the University of Namibia working with a focus in critical issues facing the church. His talk focused on African Traditional Religion and how it has been affected by colonialism. Specifically, he discussed the diminishing role of Ubuntuism in African culture. Ubuntu is an African word which refers to a universal concept where people value the good of the community above self-interest. Reverend Gurirab has seen that Ubuntuism is almost dead in cities and those people who live on the same street live as if they are in foreign countries. He went on to describe the relationships between people in the cities and it paralleled greatly with relationships between people in the United States. I found it extremely interesting to hear him describe in detail, American society and condemn it as ruining the Namibian people. Africa is constantly subjected to the effects of colonialism even to this day and it can be seen that western society has overwhelmed the traditional values of the Namibian people. Ubuntu has ideologies of sharing, compassion, peace, reconciliation, combating crime and violence, and poverty eradication. These ideologies have been cast away by the younger population for western ideologies of focusing on the individual. Reverend Gurirab called for a massive revitalization of African Traditional Religion in Namibia and throughout Africa. This will be an uphill battle, however, to remove the stains of imperialism that still exist within Africa and many Namibians do not have any desire to move away from the western ideologies that promise a path to prosperity.

Overall, we had a great week of learning through speakers and field trips. We hope you enjoyed following us along our journey!

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