Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Knee/Table Mt./Rugby/Strat. Plan./Homework

Hello Everyone,

It has been quite sometime since I have written. This is mostly because I have been pretty busy lately, as the year comes to an end. I am leaving in a little over 3 weeks, which is crazy to comprehend at this time.

First of all I though that I should update you all with the state of my knee. Two weeks ago today, I went back to surgeon to check out my knee. After messing with it, he determined that it is just a severe bone bruise and I do not need surgery. This was definitely good news. I was just not suppose to run for a month and it would heal completely in 3 months. So the day following I was able to do some work on an exercise bike. That same day we had another dinner party to celebrate Sam's mom being in. Once again, it was a great success and there was so much food. The next morning I woke up early and me, Brianna, and Maddie climbed Table Mountain which was amazing. I was concerned that I would go to Cape Town twice and not visit the most prominent site, but those concerns were dashed upon reaching the top. The walk took us about 1 1/2 hours and then we took the Cable Car down. We returned at about 1PM and took a short break before heading off to the Rugby Game. Six of us went to the Blue Bulls vs. Western Province semi-final game. We cheered for WP who's chant was WP Jou Lekker Ding (Which sounds like V-P jew lecker ding and translate roughly to Western Province you the nice business in Afrikaans). It was a good game, but WP lost by 2 due to a penalty field goal with 2 minutes to go. However, we did get the opportunity to see Bryan Habana play for the Blue Bulls. Habana was the 2007 IRB International Player of the Year, the year he was the star player on the South African Springboks Rugby World Cup championship team.

The next day we all took it pretty easy after the rather hectic weekend. All I did was do homework and hang out around the house. That work week I got all of my data back from my questionnaires about different races views of Apartheid. I will be sure to keep you updated in how those results turned out. That same week I distributed my questionnaire about homework to the Youth Group. The day that I distributed the questionnaire was the day of our biggest Youth Group in history. Over 400 learners attended the meeting so I was able to get a rather large sample size. Unfortunately, I only had 350 questionnaires, because we had not planned on that many people being there. We had initially planned on approx. 220, which is normally a pretty big group, so when 400 showed up it was a pleasant surprise. I have since tabulated the results and I will also keep you up to date on those results.

That weekend we went on our reflection retreat out in the bush. It was in the middle of nowhere. There we reviewed successes and failures of the program. Fortunately the majority of the things were successes. We did have time outside of meetings and we went on a game drive and saw a bunch of animals. I also brought home the skull of a dead springbok that we found on the drive. So after I clean it up, I have to figure out a way to get it back to the States. The reflection weekend was good, but it was back to work this Monday.

This week I got some good work done on both research projects. In fact, I turned in my first draft for my Social Research methods research paper. I still have a bit of work to do for my Capstone, but I have close to 30 pages at present. Also tonight, I turned in my final reflection paper for my Understanding Cape Town class. So it is really crunch time now.

At Equal Education, we had an interesting day yesterday. We had a strategic planning session in Muizenberg at Zackie Achmat's house. Zackie is one of our board members, but he is more famous for his work a prominent anti-Apartheid activist. His is also the founding member of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), a community based organization work on the behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS. Since its inception, the TAC has developed into a large nationwide organization. Zackie himself is living with HIV and continues the fight. Zackie is also a leading Gay Rights activist and the founder of the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality. The meeting was to talk about the plans for Equal Education in the future. These are exciting times to be apart of Equal Education, because there are so many exciting plans for the future. The meetings yesterday really made me want to stay at Equal Education because so much is happening just as I am leaving. I at least feel that I am leaving with the organization moving in the right direction.

Today, I did not go into work because they were having more Strategic Planning meetings, but they were just for Admins, so I did not need to be there. This gave me the opportunity to work on my reflection and Capstone.

Well thats it for now. My posts will probably be less frequent as it is getting busier around here as of late.

Regardless, I will talk to you soon.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Schministim cont./Robben Island/Productive Week


Since last week I have been pretty busy, but also fairly productive. After the Ashley Kriel lecture the kids from the Schministim came to the Youth Group meetings that we have at Equal Education every Tuesday and Thursday. At the YG the Schministim kids spoke to the Youth Group about their experiences and gave the background of Israeli/Palestinian conflict. After their talk the YG members had the opportunity to ask questions. After several questions about their experiences, one of the Equalizers asked if the Schministim kids if they would join Equal Education. To which the the Schministim kids responded that yes, they would join Equal Education, to the applause of the YG. It was a learning experience for everyone, because the YG kids also gave a presentation to the Schministim about Equal Education.

The next day we had a lecture about the politics in contemporary South Africa. During this talk the professor broke down the history of South African politics and how it has evolved into what it is today. It was interesting being about ask him about the of the strength of ANC (African National Congress) and the legacy of Thabo Mbeki. The ANC currently is overwhelming ruling party in Parliament and President Zuma is the head of the ANC. The ANC is the Party of famous South African's such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Thabo Mbeki, and they symbolize the party of liberation from Apartheid. As a result they win elections by a 80% majority. (It would be like the Democrats winning the presidential election with 80% percent of the vote and controlling the Senate 80 to 20. However, it becomes more complicated because seats are awarded differently so there are multiple parties with members in parliament. So it would be like 80, 7, 5, 4, 2, 1,1) As a result, there does not appear to be any end in sight for the ANC as the ruling party. There is not a strong enough minority party to unseat the ANC, especially because the next largest contender is the DA (Democratic Alliance) which has support mostly from Whites and so called Coloured people. So their support will pretty much never get larger than what that populous size is.

As for Thabo Mbeki was the president following Nelson Mandela. He did many great things for establishing Africa and South Africa as a major world player. However, he was also famous for denying the connection between HIV and AIDS (and questioned the existence of AIDS). During his time as president he made it difficult for HIV/AIDS patients to receive IRVs and as a result thousands of South Africans died. Regardless, the professor still though that Mbeki's legacy will be his masterful handling of foreign policy.

Following the lecture we went to Robben Island. Robben Island is the place where political prisoners were held by the Apartheid government for their alleged terrorist activity. This is where people like Nelson Mandela, President Jacob Zuma, Walter Sisulu, and Robert
Sobukwe were held during the Apartheid. During our trip there we visited Nelson Mandela's cell for 18 of his 27 year prison term. We also saw the place where the prisoners did their outdoor prison labor. This was also the place where much of the planning for the post-Apartheid government took place among these major anti-Apartheid leaders. One of the most interesting places we visited was the former prison house for Robert Sobukwe. Robert Sobukwe, he had his own house built, separate from the rest of the incarcerated population. There he was not allowed to have any human contact. His food was dropped off by guards and he was only allowed to see his family once a month under tight supervision. He was thought to be such a threat to the Apartheid government that they had to hide him from the rest of society.

The rest of the weekend was pretty relaxed besides a trip to long street with Bre, Sam, Amira, Nikhil, and his sisters. We had lunch and hung out around town.

The week so far I have been fairly productive. I have been able to get 10 pages into my Capstone project, finish my final reflection paper, finish my RA application, send a bunch of emails, write and send a congratulatory letter to the newly elected General Secretary of SADTU (South African Democratic Teachers Union), draft a letter that will be sent to all 800 secondary schools in South Africa, and start my application for the Business Scholars.

So all in all it has been a good week. Pictures to be up soon from the trip to Robben Island and other adventures.

Salani Kakuhle.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Walk in Review/Stellenbosch/Ashley Kriel Commoration


Since the Walk for School Libraries things at the office have calmed down quite a bit. The week following the Walk everyone in the office reviewed the successes and challenges of the march and gave recommendations for the next event. After we got into small groups and discussed all the topics, I complied a report from all of the groups. I later included students input about the walk into the report. In these meetings we also set out our 6 month strategic plan to continue the Campaign for School Libraries. We meeting with the MEC for Education, Donald Grant (the guy in charge of education in the Western Cape), in November. This will be a discussion similar to a town hall forum, where we will be bringing our Equalizers to confront the Minister about getting libraries. Then in March of 2010 we will making a presentation to the National Government and President Jacob Zuma demanding a national policy for school libraries. So far we have had success and the WCED (Western Cape Education Department) has promised to delegate 10% of public school funding to libraries or creating libraries.

Apart from the meetings planning for about the next 6 months and reviewing the march, we had a report about this organization called Haki Elimu in Tanzania. The week before the walk 4 Equal Education staff members went to visit Haki Elimu, which is a organization very similar to Equal Education, but it is more established because it is 8 years old. They are really good with using the media and they have nonstop commercials on radio and television (at one point it became too much advertising because they had commercials running once every hour). They all have an extensive list of material that they have published. We are what they want to be at in a few years. So we picked up quite a few pointers from them. However, the thing that we do much better than them is that we have an extremely strong youth movement. Haki Elimu does not have the ground movement that we do. So both organizations had some things to learn from each other. One of the cool things about working at a really young organization is that you see it change right in front of your eyes. Over the last two weeks I have seen Equal Education make some really serious changes and plans for the future.

I have also had the opportunity get going on my Capstone Project for the semester. My project will center around the issue of homework. I am trying to find out where learners do homework and if there sufficient resources for them to do their homework. I will be interviewing 4-5 learners in-depth and giving a larger questionnaire to 200-400 learners. If this research turns out to be successful and I do enough, it would be published and be submitted with the report to the National Government.

Besides EE news, two weekends ago we had a braai where we invited all of our host families to. It was successful and everyone seemed to have a good time. Also this last weekend we went to Stellenbosch for a conference on social research. At the conference, I presented my proposal for my research for my Social Research Methods class. My research's aim is "To discover what racial group is most willing to talk about and discuss Apartheid and race separation history in University of Cape Town classrooms." I presented in front of professors and others who have done a lot of work in the field. Most of them seemed very interested in my topic and liked it. They did have a lot of opinions and suggestions about it, which was good. My topic created a frenzy of discussion and at one point the moderator had to jump in and confront some of those asking questions about there methods of giving advice. The moderator was afraid that people were prescribe instead of giving suggestions, so a disagreement broke out between the moderator and those asking questions. It was a good discussion and there was many a laugh shared.

After the conference we went on a tour of the University of Stellenbosch campus. The university is primarily white and the majority of the classes are taught in Afrikaans. The school also has a troubled history, as the plan for Apartheid was generated in its university walls. The Afrikaner history at the school is rich, but rife with controversy. That night we saw an Afrikaans rapper among a group of Afrikaners which was an experience for the ages. The things that marked his performance were that he was wearing a hat with a brim that was at least 2 ft. long, every thing was in Afrikaans, and his finished every song with "awey (exclamation of excitement)" and "lekker (nice/good)."

The next day we did a wine tasting and went to the beach. It was a pretty relaxed day overall. The last week has been pretty low key, but tonight we all went to this Ashley Kriel Commemoration event. Ashley Kriel was a Colored activist during the later years of Apartheid (1980s) who was assassinated by the Apartheid Government. There were four speakers at the event. There was a Equalizer from Equal Education who gave a talk about the state of Education in South Africa. The next three speakers were from an organization called the Shministim (12th graders in Hebrew). They were 3 twenty year olds from Israel who were conscientious objectors. In Israel there is conscription for men and women after they finish high school. These 3 boys and girls refused to join the military based on their belief that what the Israel military was doing the Palestinians was inhumane. They had all been jailed at least twice and they had faced harsh criticism from the government, friends, and family. It was an extremely interesting talk and it is great to see young people fighting against what they view to be an oppressive system. Whether that system is education or the military there are leaders out there.

That's it for now and I will talk to you soon.

Sala Kakuhle.