South Africa: Social and Political Transformation
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“I am so thankful I had the opportunity to study with this program in South Africa. The SIT staff is extremely helpful and the multiple homestays are really a treasure. I got such a feel for South Africa’s cultures and made really strong bonds and connections.”
-- Morgan Sullivan, Saint Michael's College
Explore the dynamic socioeconomic, political, and cultural processes of South Africa - an extraordinarily diverse country in transition.
Following decades of systematic segregation under apartheid, South Africa is striving to free itself of a legacy of racial discrimination, economic exploitation, and political authoritarianism to build a new democratic and equitable regime.
Through coursework and community engagement, students discover the significant role that Durban, the program's base, has played in South African history, particularly its role in and against apartheid. To provide students with learning opportunities in many different contexts, the program also includes field visits to Johannesburg, rural parts of both KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, the Umfolozi and Hluhluwe Game Reserves, and the Drakensberg Mountain range.
Students interact with a range of organizations involved in South Africa's transformation process, including:
- The Abahlali Shackdwellers Movement – which campaigns around housing issues and works to give voice to the views of the poor and homeless
- Phoenix Zululand – which works to apply the principles of restorative justice in 13 KwaZulu Natal prisons
- The Cato Manor Youth Empowerment Project – which operates a school feeding scheme and youth club in the Cato Manor area of Durban where students have their first and longest homestay. Students participate in both of these activities on a weekly basis.
- The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) - an African-oriented conflict resolution center based in Durban
The program is grounded in the experiences of the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, but the focus is national and internationally comparative. While investigating the complex issues of inequality, poverty, and racial, ethnic, and gender-based discrimination in the context of South Africa, students are challenged to draw and reflect on the experiences of their home countries in dealing – or not dealing - with these same issues.
Through the program's thematic seminar, students investigate the following topics:
- Issues of Transformation: South Africa's political, socio-economic, and cultural landscapes including the process of transformation from apartheid to democracy, the apartheid legacy, and the current political economy. This includes a focus on unemployment and poverty alleviation; land reform and restitution; the state of schooling and issues of identity involving the building of a new and indigenous South African national identity. Consideration is given to issues of development and the government’s development strategies. Topics here include the informal sector; land reform and restitution; service delivery in regard to housing, water, and electricity; issues of gender violence and HIV/AIDS.
- Finally, consideration is given to South Africa’s program of reconciliation. Topics include the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the concept of ubuntu; issues of violence, ethnicity, and xenophobia; conflict resolution and peacekeeping.
|Program alum Olivia Greene (Columbia University) has received a Fulbright to return to South Africa. Olivia will work on human rights and transitional justice issues at the University of the Western Cape, Department of History.
“My study abroad experience got me thinking about the world around me in a whole new way. Each week we encountered a new lens through which to view South African society – healthcare, housing, education, gender, music, soccer, and the justice system. Through the field-based approach, I saw details about what I was learning that could never be conveyed in a classroom. The program’s curriculum and homestay component left me with wonderful memories of conversations, adventures, and friendships that ignited my curiosity and also challenged me. The program asks students to be daring from within, and because of this I grew personally in ways that proved to be invaluable as I thought about my future aspirations.”
|Program alumna Stephanie McKee returned to South Africa where she created a collaborative series of artwork with prison inmates from the KwaZulu Natal Prison and interned with the Phoenix Zululand Restorative Justice Organization. McKee was a 2012 Alice Rowan Swanson fellow. Learn more.|
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: South Africa, Durban
Language Study: Zulu
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