Country Visited: South Africa
Program year: 2011-2012
In 2012, I traveled to South Africa as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher. Hosted by the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, I was able to study, research, and work with experts, professors, teachers, and students to further my understanding of South African history, specifically the apartheid era. While in South Africa, I attended university courses, visited historical sites around the country, visited numerous primary and secondary schools, and gave several presentations on various historical and educational topics to everyone from university students to History teachers, including even primary school students. I worked closely with both the Education and History departments on campus, as well as with other professors, museum curators and educational directors, historians, local history teachers, community activists, and local South Africans to try and understand its complex history and its role in world history. It was a truly memorable and transformative experience, one that continues to impact me personally and professionally.
My South African Welcome
One story stands out that encapsulates my experience in South Africa. Within my first week in the country, I was lucky enough to be in the city where the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress (ANC) were taking place. Bloemfontein is the city where the ANC was founded back in 1912, and I was excited about this opportunity to be part of the 100th anniversary celebration. This celebration helped me realize that this is not just a political party, but more importantly a liberation movement that many South Africans credit as freeing the country from apartheid. Although I was not lucky enough to get into the main stadium, it was actually a good thing because I spent the day amongst the jubilant crowds in the street and listening to some great music at one of the stages that had been set up for the overflow crowds. It was a scorching hot day, but that didn’t stop people from dancing, singing, and enjoying the celebration. Everyone had on the yellow, green, and black of the ANC, and some people were waving South African flags while others were blowing their vuvuzelas. It was truly a classic South African celebration.
By the time I left and started walking home in the evening, I had a huge smile on my face. What a way to start my South African experience. This excitement stayed with me the entire time while I was in the country, and helps me still look back and smile about my experience in South Africa.
My Capstone Project
The focus of my research in South Africa was centered around the resistance to apartheid. This culminated in my capstone project, a workbook for teachers titled The Rainbow Revolution. This workbook breaks down the resistance that brought down apartheid in South Africa into 10 categories, including resistance through religious organizations, music, boycotts, and economics. By focusing on how people resisted apartheid, students learn not just about the diversity of how apartheid was brought down, but also about how these same tactics have been used throughout world history as forms of resistance to oppression. Students can also learn about the diverse ways that they can bring about change in their communities and in the world through these tactics and how they have been used in the past.
It came out of a need in both American and South African secondary school History classrooms for a resource that conveys the importance of the diversity of the anti-apartheid movement and the broader theme of helping students learn how to create change in linking the past with the present and future.
I continue to update the blog that I started while in South Africa with news and resources, so check it out: http://mrdivis.wordpress.com/.
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