Unlike previous trips to Makuleke, this year we wanted to provide a more structured set of activities for the USD students and Equalizers, and after consulting with the Equalizers last June, we decided upon a workshop model. Of course, the actual content of the workshop was something that was brand new to all of us and I would be lying if I did not admit that I was not sure how well the model would work or how well it would be received. Based on the feedback we received throughout the workshop and through our evaluations at the end, it seems clear that it was a real success. Initially, we thought the workshop would last 5-7 days but because of the interest in it, we ended up having 8 sessions – with many Equalizers telling us they wished there were more. At each session, we had between 20-25 Equalizers (or other interested high school students) in attendance. We were all thrilled that so many participated and that they kept coming back for each session. Keep in mind, that many of the Equalizers are responsible for a variety of chores each day (collecting firewood or water or taking care of family members) and some of them are the oldest adult in their household. The more we learned about the daily lives of the Equalizers, the more we were in awe of the fact that they could make the time to attend the workshop (more on “Getting to Know the Equalizers” below).
While Dr. Lisa Nunn (Dr. Lisa to the Equalizers) was only supposed to “lead” the first two days of the workshop, as it turned out, she lead almost every activity and the success of the workshop is really because of her hard work and wonderful ideas. After visiting South Africa in March as part of a USD faculty development program (which I was on as well), Lisa told me that she wanted to return to see Makuleke and to “help” with the workshop. Whether she likes it or not, she made such an amazing impression that she is going to be part of our trips to Makuleke in the years to come (hopefully). In addition to Lisa joining the group, Dr. Jim Bolender also spent four days in the village to investigate the potential for doing research on water issues (he is working on a similar project in Uganda). Like Lisa, he was greeted with open arms and I think he too caught the “Makuleke Fever” (much like Potomac Fever for the civics geeks – the only difference is that Makuleke Fever comes with a bit more dirt and less hot water). What this means is that the Makuleke Team is growing, and with this, USD’s impact in Makuleke will only become more significant.
Okay, back to the workshop. In the photos, I have tried to capture the different activities that we did for the workshop. Basically, each day we started with an Icebreaker activity. The Equalizers and USD students really loved these activities and many of them told us that it was the perfect way to start each session.
We then introduced the students to different ways to increase their confidence (through power stances) and we talked to them about how to write and deliver effective speeches. We encouraged every student to prepare and deliver a three minute speech, and by the end of the workshop, every participant had volunteered to do this (some even decided to go twice). Many of the speeches were incredibly moving and we hope to be able to share them with you after we edit our video on the workshop.
Another component of the workshop was for the Makuleke students to teach the USD students ixiTsonga. Lisa did a fabulous lesson on how to teach a foreign language without speaking English (we learned Latvian!), and from there, we split the students into different groups and over the course of the workshop, they had to present their language lessons.
On the third day of the workshop, we added a component that required the USD and Equalizers to create four groups. The groups came up with their own names, which included: the Freedom Fighters, Mayhem, Matimba, and Changemakers. In their groups, the students were asked to think about and discuss several issues. For example, one day they had to present specific ideas on citizenship. With the prompt, “A citizen should….,” the students wrote down the specific attributes of citizenship on poster board. On another day, they had to come up with a list of significant community issues and present these to the entire workshop. We then debated which of the community issues were most important. This activity led to a heated – but respectful – debate about the merits of different community issues. The four community issues that we focused on were teenage pregnancy, high school drop outs, alcohol and drug abuse, and bush criminals. After choosing one community issue per group, each group then had to come up with a list of possible solutions to this issue, and finally, make an action plan on how to implement their solution. While we probably needed to dedicate even more time to these activities, it was incredible to watch the USD students and Equalizers talk about the different issues in their respective communities and to listen to the debates over the possible solutions and action plans.
On the last day of the workshop, we presented the Equalizers with a certificate of completion (the USD students did these by hand), which they really enjoyed. Many of the Equalizers told us that they had never been through an experience like this in the past and they hoped we could do it again next year (if not sooner). They also offered wonderful advice on how to make the workshop better in the future. Overall, largely because of the leadership of Lisa, the workshop was a complete success and to all of you that supported the workshop either with a financial donation or spreading the word to others, we thank you very much.