South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights
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“The homestays, by far, were my favorite part of the program! It is such an incredible way to learn about the many South African cultures. I loved seeing how my four families live, what they eat, what they value, how their family structure works, and how they were (and still are) affected by apartheid and South Africa’s past. I loved meeting their friends and extended family, watching their favorite television programs, playing with their children and the neighborhood kids, chatting around the dinner table, and just being a part of the family. It is so enriching to learn about South Africa’s cultures first hand at the same time as you’re learning about them in a classroom setting.”
—Claire Oatey, Fall 2009, Whitman College
The program features several homestays designed to introduce students firsthand to South Africa’s cultural diversity. Students spend three weeks with Xhosa-speaking families in Langa Township in Cape Town; one week with families in the rural Eastern Cape (Tsabo); one week with bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking families in Stellenbosch; and one week with families in another bilingual family in Bo Kaap.
The family is the center of life in South Africa. The opportunity to live with such a diverse array of South African families is a major highlight and defining feature of the program.
Students spend three weeks living with Xhosa-speaking families in Langa Township in Cape Town. Langa is one of the oldest townships that emerged following the passage of the Urban Areas Act in 1923. Langa was a planned town and looks radically different from other unplanned settlements that dot the Cape Town landscape. The term township refers to residential areas for non-white people.
Langa is a vibrant community that values education, sports, and has a very strong Christian identity. Families typically consist of five to six members. The name Langa literally means ‘sun’ but it is derived from Langalibalele, a rebel chief imprisoned at Robin Island for rebelling against the government.
Each weekday, students commute to the suburb of Rondebosch for class; weekends are spent with the host family. An excursion to Robbin Island is typically arranged during the Langa homestay; other excursion may include hiking Table Mountain or the Lion Head hill or visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
Students spend one week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Bo Kaap. Bo Kaap is one of the best known and most photographed areas of Cape Town and is closely associated with traditional Islam and the Cape Malay community. Among the early settlers of the Cape Town area were Malaysian slaves and political prisoners who pioneered Islam and Afrikaans who influenced the area’s music and cuisine.
During the Bo Kaap homestay period, students interrogate the ‘colored’ identity and visit museums such as District 6 and the Slave Lodge to learn more about land ownership, human rights, and state sponsored resettlements and land dispossessions. Students attend classes at the SIT program center.
Bo Kaap is well known for its rich history and cultural heritage as well as for its brightly colored houses and distinct Dutch architecture.
Students spend one week living with families in the village of Tsabo situated near King Williams Town, the capitol of the Eastern Cape Province. This homestay offers students an excellent opportunity to experience rural life, examine issues of rural development, and practice Xhosa.
During the Tsabo homestay, students may visit local rural projects run by NGOs and schools. They typically have the chance to observe traditional rituals and compare and contrast urban and rural Xhosa cultures. Students receive lectures by local experts on issues of education, social development, economics, and Tsabo’s history and culture.
During their time in Tsabo, students conduct a mini field assignment to practice their research methods and enhance their confidence for the four-week Independent Study Project.
Students spend one week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Stellenbosch, located in the Western Cape Province about 50 km outside Cape Town. The city is home to one of the finest educational institutions in South Africa, the University of Stellenbosch.
During this period, students attend classes at Stellenbosch University and undertake excursions, including to the town of Paarl, home to the Afrikaans Language Monument. Students engage with faculty and local students on issues related to the future of the Afrikaans language as both a language of instruction at the university and a cultural symbol to the Afrikaner community. The language debate has put Stellenbosch University in a tug of war requiring tolerance, flexibility, and imagination in order to come up with a language policy that would be realistic and inclusive. Conversations on this issue typically continue outside the classroom with students’ Afrikaner host families.
Other accommodations during the program may include lodges, private homes, or small hotels and camping.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Cape Town
Language Study: Afrikaans, isiXhosa
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