|When Rain Clouds Gather
Theme: Triumphing over Hatred and Ignorance
Grades: Grades 9-10
Fleeing the violence and oppression of South Africa in the mid-1960s,
Makhaya crosses the border into Botswana. Here he finds himself in a
poverty-stricken rural villagea place very different from his
native Johannesburg. It is a time of great change for Botswana, as the
country approaches independence. Along with an idealistic English agriculturist,
Makhaya becomes involved in the villagers' struggle to adopt new agricultural
techniques. In doing so, the community must overcome rigid customs,
a corrupt local chief, and the unrelenting climate. Makhaya must struggle
too against the bitterness and hatred within him that are a legacy of
his life in South Africa.
Note: This novel refers to situations and topics that some readers
may find objectionable. You may wish to preview the novel before assigning
it to your students.
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: Apartheid.
Sharing information about South African apartheid laws and policy
should help students understand Makhaya's frame of mind and the source
of some of his inner struggles. Have students work together in small
groups to share their knowledge about apartheid in South Africa. Encourage
them to list what they know and to save their ideas for later reference.
- Women in Africa.
Have students go to a library and research the role of women in both
traditional and contemporary African societies. Different groups might
focus on such topics as employment, family structure, and status.
Have students report their findings back to the class.
Women in Botswana.
What is life like for women living in Botswana today? What kinds
of professions do they pursue? What are the living conditions in
the cities? In the villages? If students can't find information
specific to Botswana, they can look for any current information
about African women. Have students research and then present their
information as a panel.
- Calling All Volunteers.
Have students work in small groups to research the organizations that
have sent volunteers to Botswana since the 1960s. Have them find out
the names of the organizations, their purposes, their countries of
origin, and whether they still send volunteers to southern Africa.
Then have each group create a brochure to present their information.
- Before Independence.
Have students write a research paper on the history of Botswana before
independence, focusing on a topic such as one of the following: the
influence of the Dutch and the British; the significance of Britain's
protectorate; the missionary influence; and Botswana's attitude toward
- Apartheid's Legacy.
Although apartheid has been dismantled, its legacy still has an impact
on South African society. Have students research the effect of this
legacy in South Africa today. Suggest they find recent newspaper and
magazine articles that describe South African politics as well as