PLU
Scene
Winter 2002

Teacher uses Fulbright to bring South African experience home
Meredith Barnes '97
Meredith Barnes ’97 stands in front of penguins at the Cape of Good Hope, the southwest point on the African continent.

By Drew Brown

Spanaway Lake High School social studies and English teacher Meredith Barnes ’97 proves that studying abroad doesn’t end after college. Her interest in civil disobedience took her all the way to the other side of the world.

Barnes was selected as a Fulbright-Hays recipient to journey to South Africa last summer. The prestigious Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program provides short-term study and travel seminars for social sciences and humanities educators. Barnes, along with 15 teachers and professors from around the United States, spent August studying in South Africa, focusing primarily on that country’s indigenous tribes.

"It was a dream come true," Barnes said. "There’s no better way to get the sense of South African culture, tradition and history than actually being there."

Barnes learned up close about indigenous cultures in South Africa and their role in community life. Studying both the spiritual and material aspects of the society, she gained understanding of the complex relationships between the two.

Barnes interacted with South African artists, traditional medical practitioners, educators and scientists who work toward raising the social value and status of indigenous knowledge and its integration into modern society.

"Our society doesn't realize how much we can learn from indigenous cultures," Barnes said. "I learned several skills I can use as a teacher."

Barnes also focused on the history of passive resistance. South Africa was her first choice for study, mainly because of her interest in Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Mandela was jailed for 26 years for his resistance movements against apartheid, and Gandhi spent more than 20 years fighting for Indians in South Africa.

Barnes visited the Phoenix settlement in Durban where Gandhi lived and Robben Island in Cape Town, where Mandela was locked up for 18 years. Another personal highlight was meeting Albie Sachs, a justice on South Africa’s new constitutional court and a white anti-apartheid activist who was permanently injured in a car bomb attack in 1988.

"The experience in South Africa gave us a greater sense and appreciation of who we are as Americans," Barnes said.

This term, she is interning for the Washington Education Association. She has made presentations to teachers about indigenous cultures and created curriculum on South Africa for the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), the world’s largest database of education information. Barnes plans to teach about apartheid, non-violent resistance, and post-apartheid South Africa, when she returns to the classroom in January.

Winter 2003 Scene Copyright © 2003 Pacific Lutheran University
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