Daily Update - Day 1-7 (May 17-23) -
Photos at the bottom of the page
Daily Update - Day 9-13 (May 25-29)
Daily Update - Day 14-23 (May 30-June 8)
On May 17 and 18, 2001, college students participated in two all days seminars at Skidmore College in preparation for the South Africa Educational Study Program. During the seminar on Thursday, John Stoner from the History Department and Gerry Erchak from Anthropology, provided a taut overview of South Africa's history. On Friday morning, Susan Lehr presented a workshop on Beverley Naido's novels, with a focus on students' responses and reactions to her books entitled: Journey to Jo'burg, Chain of Fire, and No Turning Back.
Students also viewed and discussed Bill Moyers' powerful interviews with people involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The vivid first person narratives of those who lived under apartheid provided a stark picture of the crimes and healing process.
On Friday afternoon, Karen Brackett spent time discussing the educational system past and present. She also shared observational techniques and tools for students to use while collecting data for a case study on a child or teacher at the Edendale Primary School in South Africa. Susan then presented the Primary Language Record that the students will use to systematically observe children's language, reading and writing skills.
We would like to share some of the reflections of the students as they discussed the required readings which were extensive! (Long Walk to Freedom, Kaffir Boy, Rivonia's Children, Journey to Jo'Burg, Chain of Fire, No Turning Back, and A Narrative History)
"I found the book Journey to Jo'burg to be a great read, especially since it was the first one that I chose to read for our trip. This intriguing story of one South African family manages to convey a more universal message about the struggle for freedom during apartheid. Naledi and Tiro's journey enlightened them, as well as the reader, to the various injustices and restrictions placed on blacks in South Africa. The divide between black and white is clearly shown in the description of Naledi's village and the home in Jo'burg where their mother worked. The importance of family plays a major role in the book. The family structure (extended kin living with one another) is different from what we consider typical in the U.S., but the advantages of his close knit network is certainly revealed. Not only do blood relatives willing to help each other, but strangers as well. This strong sense of unity helps readers to understand more clearly how blacks enabled themselves to fight for freedom."
"I was deeply impacted by [Kaffir Boy] in many ways which are hard to describe. This story was certainly life changing in that it made me appreciate the simplicities which I so often take for granted. I wonder how many people have access to this book and who are those people? If anyone in a time of struggle could read this book I think it would both encourage and enlighten them to continue fighting for their beliefs."
"I was continually horrified by how the Mathabane family lived. The poverty was something I could not imagine….to be so destitute to have to do almost anything for money or food is inconceivable to me. The section about the young boys who were paid and given food in exchange for having sex with military men was especially sickening. It was so perverse and inhumane…I think this story will stay in my mind forever…It is such a horrible image of what apartheid represented."
"After reading Rivonia's Children, I was struck by the enormity and importance of what those who were involved at Rivonia accomplished. They brought international attention to the horrors of apartheid and made risky choices that would eventually lead to the end of apartheid. As members of the white upper class, these communist, white, Jewish South African citizens served as models and revolutionaries as they stepped out of their comfortable lives to advocate for the equality of blacks and whites."
"In many ways, the conditions that the blacks lived in and the prisons they were brought to reminded me of the [concentration] camps. In both cases, the police-state rule wanted a pure race of citizens, at the expense of the suffering of millions."
On the Road
May 22, 2001
We just landed in South Africa. We're really here! We moved to Rina's home for our first meal in South Africa, vegetable soup, butternut squash soup along with hearty bread and fruit. And rusks, of course. Our host families joined us and took us off to beds and baths. Simple pleasures!
Tomorrow some of our students will ride the 5:30 A.M. bus with the children. Several will stay on a local farm.
Stay tuned for details and photos of upcoming travels!
May 23, 2001
Up with the birds! We all met in the teachers' lounge before the bell ringer called children to class. The teachers have opened up their hearts and classrooms to our students. Our students have responded by jumping right in and working with the children. We've begun gathering data for our research projects and case studies.
Evening entertainment was unexpected! We visited Hammanskraal in Kwa Mhlanga Township with a tour bus and local guides. First stop a taste of sorghum beer at a small spaza shop. Next stop Nelson Mandela Square and gum boot dancers. Power was out at our third stop, where a traditional healer, a Sangoma, read the bones and promised Chris a long healthy life and a new car. We ended the evening at a local shebeen with grilled chicken, beer, pap and sheba-our first braai-and much dancing. Students were stunned as all of their teachers got up and moved to the drumbeat.
Buppy, Raissa, Thabang and Lerato work together to create quilt squares for the exhibit.
Liz and Rebecca make playdough for the preschool.
Children in Anastasia's class enjoy the homeade playdough.
The Skidmore College Educational team (see more below).
For additional information about the journey contact:
Karen Brackett or Susan Lehr
Co-Directors of the Study Program in South Africa
Phone: (518) 580-5140 Fax (518)580-5146