Section 1: Responding to Readings about Apartheid – Racism, Oppression, Trauma and Torture


Reading and Learning About Oppression, Trauma and Human Rights Abuses 

As we read the materials in this guide, we will come face to face with sensitive issues of race, especially as we are learning about the laws and policies that served as pillars of apartheid and how they were directly upheld by racism, oppression, dominance and segregation. We may become unsettled with feelings about the lack of fairness and oppression that was suffered by human beings as a result of apartheid. The realities of lives lived under apartheid can be presented to us through acts of racial violence, and the pain of trauma and sometimes even torture. Learning about these inhumane conditions might leave us with feelings that reflect a deep sense of sadness. 

Resilience and Empathy 

We need to acknowledge that the circumstances people faced in oppressive society can leave a sense of sadness and remorse. These feelings mean that you are developing a sense of empathy for the people you are reading about and their struggle. Put your empathy into writing, art and music. They can become a source for creative expression; you can challenge these feelings so that they become a place where you envision hope instead of despair. Resilience is a quality and disposition that is needed when anyone faces racism and discrimination, whether we are experiencing it, witnessing it or reading about it. When we have empathy for the people and issues they faced, it helps to develop our resilience in the face of the circumstances and helps to build inner strength. These are the kind of inner resources that can be used to develop the resolve to make changes, or to right the wrongs. It is the ire that human rights defenders develop when they are confronted with oppression and subjugation. 

Critical Community Conversations 

We encourage thinking with a view to arrive at a better understanding. Thinking is a mental process that, when done in a community, can benefit everyone. Critical community conversations can help us to channel our emotions such as ire, rage, sadness and guilt. Talking to one another in a supportive manner can assist to develop a balanced view that is informed by what we have read. We identify and weigh all sides of an issue and articulate thoughts about injustices, unfairness and prejudice in a balanced and reasoned manner, as well as learn about the steps toward making positive changes. 

Ubuntu: African Epistemology Is at The Centre Of The Teaching And Learning Processes 

Ubuntu is interpreted as a culturally relevant[2] approach and is at the centre of the curriculum development in the teacher support materials that were organized. Ubuntu is rooted in an African philosophy of humanism. It encourages recognition of the interconnected and interdependent nature of self and selfhood that values community building. Ubuntu is an African epistemology (way of thinking) and ontology (way of being) in a world that is based on knowledge about human relations and relationships. “Ubuntu simply defined means ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,’ which is loosely translated as ‘I am a person through other people.’” (Broodryk, 2005 cited in Kunene, 2006, p. 7) 

Ubuntu supports and nurtures self and selfhood (the individual) in relation to the community. An Ubuntu teaching and learning process is holistic in that it integrates spirituality, interdependence and unity. From a spiritual perspective, Ubuntu appeals to our higher sense of self, in which we develop a moral conscience in community and conversation with one another. These interactions can lead to action that is intended to better one another’s quality of life. 

  1. Section 1, Responding to Readings about Apartheid – Racism, Oppression, Trauma and Torture was first published in Mogadime, D. (2021). “Responding to Readings about Apartheid – Racism, Oppression, Trauma and Torture” (p.10 - 11). In Mogadime, D. (TNM Advisory Group Chair and Project Lead) with Senior Advisory Members, Anneke McCabe, Sally Hooper and Sherilyn Lehn. Teaching Nelson Mandela: Learning Experiences and Lessons to Support Grade 7-12 Classrooms. Canadian Museum for Human Rights, EPublication. ISBN: 978-0-9813127-7-4. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4tin.0).
  2. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). In “Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy” (American Educational Research Journal, 32 (3), pp. 465-491), Gloria Ladson-Billings created the term “culturally relevant pedagogy” (CRP) to recognize the student’s cultural background as an asset. Culturally relevant ubuntu epistemology is distinct from CRP because it focuses on a cultural reference point used to understand African-centered leadership style based on studying Mandela’s biography and life stories and other South African leaders (Mogadime, D., Mentz, PJ (Kobus), Armstrong, D. E. and Holtam, B., 2010). Ubuntu is a cultural reference point for reflection on Mandela’s memory for students and teachers in the learning experiences developed. Elsewhere, I discuss the importance of memory work in relation to teachers’ personal reflections, that includes delving into their own memory of cultural practices in relation to human rights. See Mogadime, D. (2021, July). Guideposts for critical reflection on human rights & Nelson Mandela’s life stories (Rev. ed.). Brock University, Faculty of Education. CC BY-NC-ND


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Mandela Global Human Rights: Peace, Reconciliation and Responsibility Copyright © by Dolana Mogadime (Ed.) Project Lead is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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