Students in South Africa pose with an elephant

Students explore literacy and education in South Africa

Dr. Gholdy Muhammad recently journeyed through South Africa with a group of eight GSU students. They were there to explore the impact and power of literacy in educational transformation.

The students met and listened to Ela Ghandi, Mahatma Ghandi’s granddaughter. They visited Ghandi’s and Nelson Mandela’s home and toured the Apartheid Museum. Six of the students are doctoral students studying teaching and teacher education. The programs are in the Department of Middle and Secondary Education.

The lessons immersed the students into an understanding of historic marginalized communities. Such communities exist in South Africa and the United States. Students studied theories of literacy and educational research such as socio-historical and socio-political perspectives. They also looked at the ways literacy praxis gets applied to classrooms.

The students also got to examine their own positions as literate beings and scholars. They viewed the roles that literacy plays in our lives. They explored how literacy education can advance and incite activism and social change. Such change runs within cultures and various diverse linguistic spaces.

They analyzed Dr. Muhammad’s research for transforming educational contexts. They explored how this re-shifts learning goals for young learners through:

  1. skill development
  2. intellectual development
  3. identity development
  4. criticality

But it wasn’t all academia and no play as they also experienced the beauty of South Africa. A visit to an elephant and lion sanctuary, Table Mountain and the southwestern tip of Africa.

The students traversed a wide range of places in a little over two weeks with the following itinerary:

  • eight schools across urban, rural and metropolitan areas
  • two universities
  • three teacher education programs
  • Nelson Mandela’s home
  • the Apartheid Museum
  • elephant and lion sanctuaries
  • the most southwestern point/tip of Africa
  • Table Mountain
  • the Phoenix Settlement (Mahatma Gandhi’s home)
  • historic monuments
  • prisons that held political prisoners
  • lots of other cultural sites
  • a personal tour and lecture from global scholar, Ela Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter

Their academic experiences included:

  • readings
  • dialogue
  • journals
  • field observations
  • cultural interviews
  • digital photo project

Dr. Muhammad and students reflected on their own identities and positions within the university. They discussed the importance of self-care when engaging in community scholarship. The aim to impart social change and activism.