So it had to be pushin’ 100 degrees today in SA! It was very hot and humid with the majority (if not all) of the buildings I visit each day do NOT have Air Conditioning! Yes I know how can this be, you ask? Isn’t this Africa!!! It is but I can only speak for my town on of Grahamstown. Most of the houses, schools, and other public buildings do not contain air conditioning units. There are a lot of windows, and maybe even a ceiling fan if you are lucky but no AC. Many of the homes and buildings are not insulated like the homes and buildings in the States. So AC is not a necessity but I would have loved some today! LOL
So as I and everyone else in town worked through the unbearable heat, there was a lot of learning going on. For me and for my students.
My class has been studying about the indigenous people of South Africa. These people were first called the San people but later called the Bushmen (not by choice). They are African people that lived off the land and were better known as the hunter gatherers. That means they hunted and gathered everything they ate. They were not farmers and did not have cattle or livestock. I had the honor of teaching the first formal lesson on the San last Friday! It also happened to be the first lesson my Supervising Professor observed me teaching. This would not be a big deal except for the fact my Supervising Professor is very intimidating! She is like 6 feet tall, a celebrated professor of the local University, a Ph.D, and she taught elementary school for like 20 years. Lets just say I was a little nervous. But, I taught a ‘bomb’ lesson with actual artifacts from the San! I set the library up like a museum with the artifacts laid out on the table, there was a short powerpoint of pictures of the San people playing on the various computers in the room, and I included youtube videos depicting how the San people talked, dressed, lived, and how they hunted. So I was very pleased (and relieved) to have a glowing review from my Professor!
Today my class visited the local history museum in Grahamstown, and they got to learn even more about the San people. They even got a private tutorial from the local archeologist at the museum about the San people. And they got to touch some of the artifacts that were thousands to million years old! What a great experience right??? WRONG! My class complained about how long and drawn out the archeologist was and how they already knew half the things he discussed. I was of course very disappointed in my class (and of course I let them know it!) I tried to make them understand that when someone is very passionate about their work or craft they generally have tons of information about it, and they can usually talk for days about it. We also got a very special tour at the museum that I am sure not everyone (general public) receives. They also need to know their history and learn about the indigenous people from the country they live in!
After all of this, it made me think about the fact that Black History Month is not celebrated in South Africa. It is generally a time that is acknowledged in the States. Fortunately the day was not lost. Today I also got to work at the Lebone Center (after school program for very underprivileged children in Grahamstown. I found a book about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on their shelf and I decided to read it to them. As I read I explained a lot of what was going on in the 50s and 60s for black people in America and how Dr. King helped not just black people but all people receive the same rights and freedoms as white people. I was shocked at how interested they were about Dr. King. They sat quiet with big eyes the entire time I read the book. I could tell that for most of them it was their first time hearing about King and the Civil Rights Movement. I am sure they assumed that America had always been this great and inviting place for everyone. I tried to compare King to Nelson Mandela so they could make a deeper connection. I knew they could understand the struggle because to this day the majority of black people in SA are still experiencing that struggle (its just has a different name).
After today, I know see how important it is for me to know my history. And how important it is that we (teachers, parents, citizens of the world) educate our children about their history! It is important that we know our backgrounds and pass these stories and lessons along to the next generations. If we don’t the people that came before us will remain lost to us. Know your story…and please share it with someone else!