Friday, December 18, 2009

Magnificent Mozambique for Students

As mentioned in my October blog, I was able to share my enthusiasm about our project to Mozambique during their elections with Mr. Massucci’s students at East Hills Middle School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I was excited at the level of interest and enthusiasm that these middle school students portrayed in our project. I began to think about how I could extend additional information to these and other students that may be interested in African countries. I decided that my individual project would provide students with information that we found during our stay in Mozambique using what students love best…technology.
I thought that creating a website would be useful for both teachers and students to explore different aspects of Mozambique. The website would be a living document, which could be continually updated with student blogs about what they’ve learned. It would also be used by teachers as a way to differentiate instruction by allowing students to work at their individual pace through the unit.
I thought about these students as I traveled from South Africa to travel to Maputo, Mozambique. It is absolutely inadequate to describe the vibrant colors and flurry of activity that we encountered. I then decided to add a photo gallery to capture the essence of what we observed. While reading about the election process, they can see pictures (and eventually) videos of people voting in Maputo and the surrounding areas.
As soon as we arrived in Maputo, we learned that we would meet and interview the former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano! The interview process was phenomenal, he took at least an hour to answer questions about Mozambican health care, education and the provided insight into some history of languages in Mozambique. Students visiting the website will be able to see still photos of our meeting and do additional research on Chissano, Guebuza or any other political leaders from Mozambique.
As our larger project team split into our individual groups (health care, education, and culture) as well as our role to observe elections, I thought that students using the website will be able to see what we’ve discovered real-time. Our project teams could post the results of their interviews with religious leaders, medical leaders and see interviews from the University Eduardo Mondlane.
The African Democracy Project Mozambique provides students with a global perspective of democracy. Using web-based instruction methods, students will learn about Mozambican culture, political ideologies and health care concerns. To visit the website visit Remember to visit the site periodically as additional materials are continually being added.
There is an opportunity to blog about what you’ve learned, or provide suggestions for other materials. The site is currently geared toward high school students, but extensions to other grade levels are forthcoming!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jimmy and Johannesburg

As an African-American student, my thoughts about spending a few days in South Africa were mixed. Although Apartheid has been abolished, I am cognizant of how behaviors of a country tend to take decades to catch up to laws and policies enacted (think about the evolution of civil rights in the US, for example). Questions about how I would be treated swirled in my head. Will there be occasions where I may be treated differently than some of my classmates?? ?Will the distinction between races be extremely evident??
Flying to South Africa, I noticed that the majority of our crew members (except for the pilot) were African and not your standard American size 0 (another topic, another time). Landing in South Africa was not very different than landing in Detroit Metropolitan airport. The airport was modern with nice shops and easy access to transportation.
Since we were time constrained in terms of really experiencing South Africa, we were fortunate to have a tour guide to show us the good, the bad and the ugly in Johannesburg, South Africa. Without a doubt, the highlight of our tour was the tour guide himself, Jimmy, the CEO, Owner and operator of the tour company that we were fortunate to have.
I was lucky enough to be the front seat rider and recipient of the many comments and lessons about Johannesburg (except for the,
see can we miss the pedestrian
driving techniques that I never became accustomed to). According to Jimmy, he spoke about 18 different languages (we were privy to at least hearing at least 4 of them) and had traveled to most states in our very own country. One thing for sure, he knew enough about most topics to either have experienced them first-hand or possess a skill that most networking students would die for.
Jimmy promised us that we would see the
good, the bad and the ugly
of Johannesburg and Soweto and he didn't disappoint us. We could have gone on a typical tour that would not give you an indication of how most people live in the area. With Jimmy, we saw evidence of all walks of life. We saw shantytowns, but we also saw very nicely manicured brick homes. He took us to what he called Zulu-land, which reminded me of a small flea market. People in this area were of Zulu descent and spoke a few different languages based upon their region of origin. He introduced us to men with scarring on their faces and told us of rites of passage ceremonies. The spirit of entrepreneurialism was alive and well in this area.
One of the highlights of my time in South Africa was the visit to the Apartheid Museum. Although, it was both emotional and uplifting to see the progress South Africa has made as a result of abolishment of this tyranny, I couldn't help to think of the long lasting effect this type of oppression has on a people. I read a summary during my visit that described how students were not to be educated to the level of their white peers because they were only to be employed in subservient positions. I think this was more emotional for me than the room of nooses for some reason. The long-term effect of years and years of opportunities loss through the purposeful ?under-education? of a people based on race alone was too much for me to absorb. It made me sad on so many levels. On another note, Jimmy and I discussed the idea of opening a museum for the mine workers; his stories about them were intriguing.
The good news is that my initial fears about visiting South Africa did not come to fruition. Spending only a few days in this country, I did not personally see or experience any discrimination. I wonder if this would be true if I stayed for months.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mozambican democracy comes to East Hills Middle School

Professor Deegan Krause and I (and maybe one or two more team members)will present Wayne State Univerity's African Democracy Project-Mozambique to 8th grade students at East Hills Middle School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on Thursday. I am hopeful that they will get a sense of our excitement in traveling to Africa to view the elections, talk to former president Chissano, and work in our sub-groups. Mr. Chris Delgado, the principal at East Hills was gracious enough to allow our team to share our global experiences with about 80 students! As I have experienced during presentations in the past, I'll probably learn just as much as the students. Thanks to Mr. Massucci at East Hills for helping to coordinate this effort.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mozambique Planning

It has definitely been an overwhelming amount of information to digest prior to our leaving for Mozambique. I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that no matter how much time we have to plan prior to leaving, it wouldn’t feel like enough. As I went out to buy some heavy duty mosquito repellant, the reality of how close we are to leaving is becoming more unnerving. I am glad that we are privy to having two authors come to our class to speak to us of their experiences in the country and sharing their research in the democratization of this country after a long-standing civil war. Initially we heard from Anne Pitcher, author of Transforming Mozambique: the Politics of Privatization. Tomorrow, we will hear from Carrie Manning, author of The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post Conflict Democratization, 1992 – 2000. After reading Manning’s book, it will be interesting to ask questions in reference to a common theme throughout her book referencing the “elite habituation”, that is, what I interpret as the undercurrent of Mozambican political decision-making as opposed to the open multi-party election process.
One difference I find with Manning and Anne Pitcher is Manning’s emphasis of democracy as the “independent variable” and looks at the democratization of Mozambique as the “process instead of the outcome”. This concept according to Manning is somewhat puzzling when one thinks about the organizational management concepts of the ideal vision, mission and purpose of a government. People and group painstakingly map out processes that inevitably are the quest to an end result.
Listening to these authors add to the excitement of being able to talk to Mozambicans first hand to compare what we have learned to what they express about democracy. It will be equally interesting to see if what we’ve read differs from what we’ll see during the election process. I am anxious to speak to both representatives of Frelimo and Renamo, the two major political parties in Mozambique.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How does Mozambique govern?

When we arrive in Mozambique, we will so be privy to observing their national elections. After observing our own hard fought elections last year, it will be interesting to see the comparisons. As part of our preparation, we have been reading several articles that help us to understand some major differences in the way we govern our nation as opposed to the way that Mozambique governs its own.

One major difference with Mozambique and the United States is the amount of power and control that the president has. Carrie Manning in our reading speaks of Mozambique being described as a country whose leadership is seen as "semi-presidential". The author also states that this country doesn't fit the designation quite so succinctly. The term "semi-presidentialism" as described in Manning's article "has three characteristics: the president is directed by universal suffrage; and the president shares executive powers with a "prime minister and ministers who posses executive and governmental power and can stay in office only if the parliament does not show opposition to them" (Duverger, 1980, 166). In essence, although Mozambique has a prime minister (similar to our vice president, but with essentially more shared power), the president has the ability to remove both the prime minister, and the parliament.

This ability to dismiss key governmental officials differs quite considerably than our government. I can see the current health care debate in our own country going quite differently if our president has similar power. Two major decisions that the U.S president has on his agenda (health care and the Afghan strategic design) are both heated enought to exert the type of power that the Mozambican president could. However, just as it seems to work in Mozambique, the two major political parties (Frelimo and Renamo) are close enough during the elections and works as a deterrent to a major abuse of power of the presidency. As the Mozambican president has a two term option, so does our president. However, given the strong rule that could be used if we had the Mozambican governmental model, may prompt a president to risk a second term in lieu of a highly charged agenda.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What is democracy?

Although the excitement of traveling to Mozambique is still prevalent, the reality of what we are going to do is starting to sink in. We as a group are looking at democracy in Mozambique. It seemed pretty straightforward, at least for at first. Professor Krause had to go and muddle things by asking us a simple question...what does democracy mean to us (as individuals). Even after reading excellent articles on the topic, as I write now, I'm trying to overcome my "deer in headlights" demeanor. I want to answer his question and sound scholarly, but more than that, I really want to be sincere about my own beliefs about democracy.

I almost regret reading the articles prior to answering this question. As a matter of fact, I will try with great difficulty not to be swayed by the definitions of others. Of course my own reference comes from what I was initially introduced to in grade school and beyond. The philosophical ideas that I have about democracy is in part referenced during Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address in 1863, where he makes the statement (about the the civil war), "...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth". That is, in my interpretation means that democracy exist to represent (and abide by)the will of its people to accomplish the greater good for all.

Now of course, as I think about this statement, I am forced to digress to my readings (s0 much for not being influenced) However, Robert Dahl in his article entitled, "On Democracy" (1998) puts this philosophical notion in clear perspective. He states, "democracy" refers to both an ideal and an actuality". In this regard, I think about my philosophical idea verses "how" democracy translates into behavioriol examples. What does it look like in the day and life of individuals. It is very clear these days with the infamous health care debate in our own back yard, that democracy looks and feels very different to different people. The importance of democracy both in practice and in behavior for me, means that as an individual, my voice is can be represented by those with similar beliefs that is truly represents the "greater good". The importance for democracy in Mozambique is quite the same. It should mean that whether a person lives in a rural or urban area, there is a mechanism or structure in place that allows the individual to participate in policies and decisions that reflect the greater good for all as well.

What is democracy then? How can we study this "ideal and actuality" in Mozambique if it is not clear in our own country or amongst scholars. We as a team can refer to our founding fathers ideas, discuss and debate (as we are allowed in a democracy)consense on a common definition and move forward. The problem is as is mentioned the article, "Democracy and Africa -a View from the Village" by Maxwell Owusu (1992)that "the essential problem of African democracy is... the essential problem of democracy everywhere - and it is wise to remember that only a few countries in the world have really made a success of it. Democracy has succeeded in Northwestern Europe and in a few countries outside Europe because it has become entwined in the traditions of the people". It is not easy to overlay our own beliefs on a country that is so very different from our own in terms of culture, traditions, beliefs, religions, etc.

But is our mission! We were fortunate to have a guest speaker last week, Anne Pitcher, author of Transforming Mozambique : The Business of Privatization, 1975-2000 (2002) to help us understand about this country. She spoke of the history of independence and the struggles of post independence that this country as endured. What was somewhat surprising about her presentation was the omission of how the ideas and philosophies of democratization are passed on to the youth (which she stated accounted for a large percentage of the population due to the civil war). It surprised me that this population that is so key to the future of democracy was not more of focus in the book.

We have a lot to digest in the weeks prior to departure!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Where will we begin?

Our team will visit Mozambique during their election process in October of this year. Studying the evolution of democracy is the umbrella on which we will base the documentary. After getting additional perspective on the history and current state of democracy through a class presentation by Anne Pitcher (author of the book, Transforming Mozambique : The Business of Privatization, 1975-2000), I am finding myself wanting to know more of what is was like for individuals from their transition from colonization (by Portugal) to post independence.

This is where my dilemma begins. I want to see how people are affected by the governmental changes in their everyday life. I also want to focus on the current state of education is in their country. From this view, I want to know how children in Mozambique are introduced to its governmental structure. Our own country has national and state standards to ensure we teach our children how our government is structured . In this respect, we as a country try not to influence our students to any one political party. Just look at the recent brouhaha with President Obama's address to our nation's school (The theme was touted to be a typical "stay in school" message). Some people anticipated his to be an attempt at political persuasion, while others did not see what the big deal was, as other presidents have done the same! I wonder was Mozambique watching us as a "model of democracy" during that time?

As I read some of my team member's blogs, I am aware that we come from different disciplines (biology, business, etc). This diversity of perspective will be an interesting journey! By the way, I've added links to our team members blogs so you can follow them as well!

Monday, September 14, 2009


We are beginning to get in our sub-groups according to our interest and I'm all over the board! I want to look at democracy through the eyes of education, culture, and organizational development. We will have the opportunity to interview Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique, so of course now I also want to know more about the technical aspect of documentaries (which will be the final product of the project).

At this point, the project is close enough that I'm getting a little nervous. The itinerary for the plane ride over is what did it...I'm sure. The good news is our agenda includes one day in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Impressions - Project Group Meeting

I was anxiously anticipating our Sunday dinner to meet members of our project team. We will be studying democracy in Mozambique beginning in October '09. We tasted some African dishes common to the region (the okra and shrimp jollof was scrumptious)and did some preliminary introductions. As expected, we will have an ambitious schedule to get ready to leave in October. I can't wait to get started!