Week Three: Celebrations

Another busy week has passed in Jo-burg!! This week was filled with meetings, meetings, and more meetings. David, Matthew, and I met with many different students from Wits University tech and entrepreneurship clubs, our target market for student engagement. These encounters helped us make significant inroads in our research and we were even able to develop a work plan for the rest of our five weeks here.

We also met up with the Marketing Manager to discuss Tshimologong’s recently launched website to share our list of snags regarding user experience. I’ve never worked behind the scenes on a website besides using the template for this WordPress blog, which I have a feeling doesn’t count! I really enjoyed helping out with the website and I am looking forward to working on a second snag list after the web developer makes our suggested changes. But my favorite work event of the week was a community breakfast. Most of the entrepreneurs that utilize the co-working space are constantly coming and going throughout the week and our interaction with them can be limited. We were all excited to have the opportunity to grab a bowl of cereal and chat in a casual environment.

June 13th: The day of birth of our dear friend Schmitty!!!!!

Schmitty is vegan and usually the carnivorous boys take no pity and enjoy mocking her, but tonight while us girlies dined at a nearby vegan restaurant, they stayed at home to bake attempt to bake a vegan cake. Although it was unanimously decided that the cake was not great, it was so sweet of them and the perfect way to end the day of celebrations!


June 16th: Youth Day in South Africa.

June 16, 1976 is the date of the Soweto Uprising, a day when over 20,000 black students from Soweto protested against the apartheid government’s mandate that Black township schools must be taught in Afrikaan rather than the community’s local language. This mandate created many hurdles for the schools and when combined with the intentional lack of government funding that went towards Black schools, the quality of education students received was severely diminished. Throughout South Africa, there was a shortage of classrooms and a scarcity of teachers for Black schools. Many of the teachers were already under qualified and when the language mandate was declared, there were even less resources available for these schools because of a further lack of teachers and Afrikaan textbooks.

The march was intended to be peaceful but the atmosphere escalated when police were called in to break up the crowd and riots ensued. The police used tear gas and stones were thrown back, but eventually the first shot was fired. As a result, dozens of students were killed by the brutal apartheid regime police. The sacrifice of these students is remembered as a turning point in the fight against apartheid. Youth Day is in honor of those students who lost their lives as well as a day of empowerment for all ethnicities in South Africa.

“You are fantastic, do you know that? Our freedom, in a very large measure was due to what young people such as yourselves did 40 years ago not very far from where we lived in Soweto where Hector Pieterson was shot and killed. But you are fantastic. Reach for your stars, because now you can be anything and everything you want to be. We are proud of you and that you don’t allow circumstances to keep you down, you say they are not obstacles, they are challenges”- Desmond Tutu, Youth Day 2016

I was inspired by this quote from Desmond Tutu who spoke at a Youth Day Conference a couple years back. Despite South Africa’s constant struggle for equality, it is empowering to recognize the country’s ability to look to the past in remembrance of the young people who lost their lives whilst facing forward in celebration of the young minds that will shape this country’s future.

We celebrated Youth Day by attending a fashion show that was part of a day-long youth expo. After getting a little lost with our Uber driver and wandering outside to find the right entrance, we found ourselves in the correct exhibition hall to be immediately greeted by a red carpet. After I took my time strutting down the red carpet and enjoying my few moments of fame, we found a group of seats together in the third row. I have never been to a fashion show before but I was amazed by the dozens of young designers that shared their beautiful designs. Although I was slightly overwhelmed by the model’s lack of smiles while striding down the runway, I focused on the designs and enjoyed seeing how the designers incorporated the well-known bold African prints into their pieces.

On Friday we met up with some Masters in Management fellows from IE Business School in Spain. They were coming to the end of their week long program and it was interesting to hear their experiences as they are also international students in the South African context. Some of them even gave me and my team some pointers for our project! At the end of the evening we were able to join them in watching Spain play in the World Cup game!

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We finished off the weekend by visiting a rooftop Sunday market. The markets here are full of various food stalls with cuisine from all over the world, reflective of the ethnic and cultural diversity of South Africa. We relaxed the rest of the day- picking up groceries for the week and going to the cinema to see Incredibles 2 (11/10 would recommend!) It’s so rare for a sequel that lives up to the original, especially of a childhood favorite.

Today I went back to work and it’s hard to believe that it’s my fourth week in South Africa!! I’m looking forward to having more important discussions with members of Tshimologong as well as with students. We get Friday off this week and we are taking the extra time off to go on a safari and rub shoulders with some lions!!!!


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