During May we at Liz at Lancaster were privileged to host a group of 12 extraordinary students from the University of Michigan. Our experience of them here at Liz at Lanacaster was as a group of talented, engaged, intelligent, respectful, humane, funny, warm, caring individuals. They were more concerned with giving, rather than what they could take from the country. They certainly enriched all our lives. These students were registered for a module called ‘Pedagogy in Action’. Developed by Dr Nesha Haniff this module focuses on HIV education. Students registered for the module work in their own communities in the US and then work further afield, in this case South Africa. Their work aims to educate the low-literate, and to empower them to become second-generation teachers who in turn teach HIV prevention to their own communities. Through this training of teachers, the education intervention is completely sustainable.
I have posted below, Dr Haniff’s reflections on South Africa, the World Cup and Madiba’s role
Siyabonga Baba Today I return to the US and it marks the end of the Pedagogy of Action 2010. This year also marks the 10 year existence of the Pedagogy of Action and for the first time in its history South Africa and the continent of Africa host the world cup. On June 11 as the games opened I felt as though I was in the center of the world – the world came to Africa and it was gleaming, sophisticated,and pulsating.The South African team Bafana Bafana ranked 83rd.in the world on that day hosted Mexico ranked 17th. No host in the world cup has ever lost an opening game. As one newspaper said the world was in Bafana’s hands. Against all the odds as the continent held its breath ,Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the games and led Mexico 1-0 until Mexico tied the game eleven minutes before it ended. A tie seemed like an underachievement , against their better ranked opponent but it was a fair result. Regardless of Bafana Bafana’s performance , the world cup in South Africa has already been deemed a success and some say maybe the best one yet. It is an achievement of epic proportions. When you look at the crowds you will see sometimes people holding aloft a sign with an image of Nelson Mandela that says “Siyabonga Baba”(siyabonga meaning thank you and baba a respectful address for an elderly father). Everyone applauds as they see this sign for none of this would have been possible without his will, his vision to forge a nation such as South Africa.
The Pedagogy of Action must say too Siyabonga Baba for our experience here has been transformative. The 12 students who traveled to South Africa received a surfeit of generosity in all the places they worked and they conducted themselves with respectfulness, never placing themselves above others. Without fail they were complemented everywhere they went, the bus drivers, the tour guide, the workers at the places they stayed, the bed and breakfast hosts, their peers and the professionals at the institutions in which they worked. “Your students they would say are so different”. I am not sure what this means but I would like to attribute this to some of the core principles of the POA (Pedagogy of Action) which have evolved over the last ten years.
Students must be prepared before they leave, know about the culture , politics and history of the country where they will work. American students must examine their place and perception in the world and know how to manage the hegemony they represent. The POA is not a ruse to be tourists, the students must be engaged in meaningful work which must be sustainable after they leave. The core principle here is that they must leave skills behind not leave with them. They must reflect on what they are experiencing through discussion, on site papers to be hand written and through the dispatches they have sent to their families and networks. We must meet and reflect everyday about our work, and the difficulties and obstacles they face. They must not return home from Africa with more pictures of animals than people. The core principle is that Africa is revealed through their respectful relationships with people.
They must be a comrade to each other. This core principle has been the hardest one to accomplish and perhaps on my part overly ambitious. I can get them to be great in their work with communities and institutions but they are unable to use the same principles with each other. They are suddenly no longer great citizens of the world but judgmental and often consumed with small inconsequential issues. This has been so for ten years and I consider this one of the failures of the POA. I will accept this failure if it’s the only one I can find and admire them for their passion for the POA, for their extraordinary efforts in trying to fund themselves, for the ways they have indebted themselves and families for this experience in their search for meaning in their attempt to become conscious and relevant citizens of their country and of the world.
Ke Nako I could think of no other place to teach citizenship and activism to students than South Africa for it is a living and evolving monument to this ideal. It is hard to explain the meaning and complexity of South Africa. It is a country 16 years old with all the encumbent problems of poverty, inequality, racial difficulties, lurking xenophobia and yes debt incurred for hosting the world cup. You can at once see the great modern sophisticated airport of Cape Town and the shacks that line the highway as you make your way to the city. Yet every day we worked with people who exemplified Madiba’s ideal of forgiveness, never behaving as victims even though each of them could tell us such a story, each heroically working to solve often unsolvable problems, and loving to us. On June 11th when Bafana Bafana played Mexico, there was almost no traffic on the streets of London, England which was once the center of the world when the British ruled the world. On that day it was not England but Africa which was the center of the world. One of the phrases in the opening of the games is Ke Nako- meaning its our time.
This moment would not have been possible without Nelson Mandela.