A group of students and lecturers from the discipline of Cultural and Heritage Tourism within the School of Social Sciences recently visited the northern KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields, Shakaland (Eshowe) and the Isimangaliso Wetland Park as part of their introductory and research modules.
The critical tour helped students learn more about the key heritage sites in relation to the application of relevant theoretical concepts they are introduced to in class. The personal visit to the various heritage sites and the experience of being a tourist are central learning outcomes of their module.
Lecturer Dr Mabuyi Gumede said, ‘The field trip is a learning exercise that helps the students to rethink, review and reconceptualise their attitudes towards heritage sites, i.e. appreciate their significance, respect the need for their existence and conservation, realize the social, political, economic values and appreciate the need for more community education about the heritage sites.’
The three-day trip was an informative and exciting excursion. The group visited the Blood River/Ncome Museum to learn about the significance of this heritage site in the history of South Africa and how differently the heritage issues were dealt with during the apartheid and democratic eras.
They also went to Shakaland (Eshowe) to learn about Zulu Culture through a Shaka Zulu movie, a cultural tour and traditional performances. At Isimangaliso Wetland Park, students had a first-hand experience of the wonders this World Heritage Site has to offer tourists while also participating in various activities that focus mainly on natural resources.
Second year student Ms Asanda Mbutho described the experience as life-changing saying, ‘You learn about these sites in class but to see them in reality is something else. It really puts the theoretical and practical aspects of what we learn in perspective. We were introduced to new information and it broadened our mindset.’
Student Mr Gcinukuthula Gumede said the trip made him proud to be South African and allowed him to celebrate his cultural heritage. It also provided a re-cap of traditions that he had forgotten and some he had not known about. ‘This was an important trip for us. It was team-building but also allowed you to interact with lecturers and I realized that they are approachable. I hope these field trips continue for the next group of students because it is wonderful,’ he said.
The students plan on taking their families to these heritage sites in the future, of which some have never been. ‘I know it will be a bonding experience for my family and I,’ said Mbutho.