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This program focuses on South Africa’s ethnic diversity. In a typical semester, students complete four homestays — each providing the opportunity to meet and interact with South Africans from different geographic and ethnic backgrounds. The strong emphasis on the homestay as experiential learning complements lectures, discussions, field-based assignments, and excursions to provide a multidisciplinary analysis of the country.
During the month of April, South Africans celebrate Freedom Day, commemorating the transition to democracy. South Africa has made great strides in righting the wrongs of an unjust system, but significant challenges remain. South Africa is striving to implement a very progressive national constitution, restructure local governments, have all levels of government working to one cohesive end, deliver basic services to all communities, and come to terms with a high rate of societal violence and a still uneasy racial divide. Students on this program explore these issues, meet inspiring individuals and organizations making a difference across South Africa, and contemplate the country’s future path.
Students spend the first four weeks of the program in Cape Town living in a township called Langa. Primarily isiXhosa-speaking, Langa was one of many areas designated for black South Africans and is one of the oldest townships in the country. Settlements in apartheid South Africa were populated not only according to race but also ethnicity. This was a deliberate policy by the state to control South Africans using the “divide and rule” tactic.
The SIT classrooms and office are located in the southern suburb of Rondebosch, also the site of the University of Cape Town. Students spend an additional 14 days in Cape Town during the Independent Study Project (ISP) preparation period concurrent with the Bo Kaap homestay period. Depending on where a student conducts his or her ISP, the total time spent in the Cape Town area could be ten weeks.
Multiculturalism has long been a defining characteristic of Cape Town, and the program takes advantage of the multiple resources the city offers. During the mid-twentieth century, the population of Cape Town had reached approximately half a million, of which whites were less than half. Economic hardship and racial discrimination encouraged policies that favored whites; this created economic and cultural differences that steadily split the population along racial lines. Immigrants, colored, and black groups struggled to define their identity and respond to this discrimination. Meanwhile Afrikaner nationalism grew stronger in Cape Town and elsewhere in South Africa, leading to a growing right-wing movement.
Through monuments and new institutions, Cape Town has asserted itself as a cultural center of South Africa and is commonly known as the “Mother City” of the nation.
The program engages deeply with South Africa’s history of multiculturalism and apartheid, but also focuses on ethnic identities today and how those are reflected on national, regional, local, and individual levels. The program includes four different homestays enabling students to immerse themselves in a variety of South African cultural environments.
Students receive intensive isiXhosa language instruction, focusing on beginning speaking and comprehension skills. This allows students to more meaningfully engage with isiXhosa-speaking communities. A tonal language with click consonants, isiXhosa is spoken widely across South Africa, and students can practice their new skills during their first (and longest) homestay in Langa.
In addition to isiXhosa, students receive introductory instruction in Afrikaans, a language that emerged historically from the creolization of the population through slavery and immigration of Dutch settlers. Afrikaans is spoken as a first language by the Afrikaner community and, to a larger extent, the coloured community.
Students spend four weeks near the end of the semester working on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a selected topic of interest to them. The ISP is conducted in Cape Town or in another approved location appropriate to the project.
Sample topic areas include:
This program is composed of two thematic seminars, Multiculturalism and Human Rights in South Africa and Narratives of Identity and Social Change; a course on research methods and ethics; conversational isiXhosa; and the Independent Study Project (ISP). All components are intricately linked so that as the program progresses, the knowledge and understanding acquired from the first four courses provide students with the skills necessary to enable them to successfully complete an Independent Study Project in the context of South Africa.
Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.
The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Throughout the semester, students have day excursions to museums, historical sites, self-help schemes, and community organizations around Cape Town. Students also undertake brief fieldwork investigations in local schools and NGOs. Later in the semester, the group takes longer excursions outside of Cape Town.
The program’s first excursion outside Cape Town is to Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic capital and largest city. Johannesburg is also the capital of the wealthiest province, Gauteng, and houses South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. The city of Johannesburg includes Soweto, one of the largest settlements in South Africa. Soweto was a place of significant resistance to apartheid and gross human rights violations by the South African state.
While in Johannesburg, students undertake excursions to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Peterson Museum, and Nelson Mandela’s House (Museum) in Soweto. The program also visits Liliesleaf Farm, the underground headquarters of the armed winged of the ANC (Umkonto we Sizwe) during the struggle. During this excursion the history of South Africa’s past is presented in different forms to provide students with a solid grounding in the context of issues studied throughout the semester.
On this excursion, the program also visits Pretoria, the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa. In Pretoria, students visit the Voortrekker Monument and Museum and the Union Buildings. The excursion to Johannesburg happens immediately after the end of the first three-week homestay in Langa.
The program’s major 14-day excursion takes students to a village called Tshabo, on the Eastern Cape. The group traverses South Africa’s cultural tapestry, passing through regions historically populated by Xhosa, San, Afrikaner, and English inhabitants. This part of South Africa is seen as the first frontier between black and white. The landscape of this part of South Africa provided a dramatic backdrop for the moral struggles around colonialism, expansionism, race, and freedom. During this excursion, students have an eight-day homestay with an amaXhosa community in Tshabo, a village near King Williams Town. Students also have an opportunity to visit the Steve Biko Centre. Here students learn about the Black Conscious Movement and its relevance to past and present-day South Africa.
Stewart Chirova, a Zimbabwe national, received a BS in agriculture from the University of Zimbabwe, an MS and MPS in horticulture and environmental management from Cornell University, and a graduate diploma in business administration at De Mont Fort University in the UK. He has worked as a research associate at the University of Zimbabwe and at Cornell University. His research efforts were focused on sustainable agriculture, integrated pest management, watershed management, and geographic information systems. He has also taught courses for the Ministry of Education in Zimbabwe and served as a coordinator in the International Students and Scholars program office at Cornell University. Stewart served as the academic director of SIT’s program in Botswana from fall 2001 through spring 2010. Stewart has directed the South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights program since fall 2010. In addition to his role as academic director, he served as a member and later chair of the Program Affairs Committee on the SIT Study Abroad Governance Council (2007 until 2009).
Tabisa has been with SIT since the spring of 2007. She chiefly focuses on helping students adapt to the program by addressing students’ day-to-day concerns, facilitating communication between the students and in-country staff, and assisting with administrative aspects of the program. She is also in charge of homestay coordination. Tabisa obtained a B.A. in psychology, education, and Xhosa from the University of Port Elizabeth, a postgraduate diploma in communication and computing from London Centre College for Business Studies, and a postgraduate degree in public relations management from UNISA (University of South Africa).
Associate professor Mohamed Adhikari received his PhD from the University of Cape Town. After nearly three decades of research on various aspects of coloured identity and politics in South Africa, he recently started working in the area of genocide studies, with a particular focus on settler colonialism and genocide.
Against the Current: A Biography of Harold Cressy (Cape Town: Juta, 2012)
The Anatomy of a South African Genocide: The Extermination of the Cape San Peoples (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press and Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2010)
Burdened by Race: Coloured Identities in Southern Africa (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2009)
Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community (Cape Town: Double Storey Books and Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005)
James La Guma (Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman Pty. Ltd, 1996)
Richard Calland is an associate professor in the University of Cape Town’s Public Law Department. He teaches constitutional and human rights law, as well as some administrative law. He specializes in the law and practice of the right to access information and whistle-blowing protections; in administrative justice; in public ethics; and in constitutional design, largely shaped by his work as program manager at the Political Information and Monitoring Service at Idasa, the leading democracy think tank in Africa, which he led from its inception in 1995 until 2003. He continues to play a role at Idasa as acting manager of the center’s economic governance program, which was initiated in January 2007.
In 2000, Calland founded the Open Democracy Advice Centre, a law center based in Cape Town, which promotes the 'right to know', advises whistleblowers, advocates legal reform, and takes test case litigation on access to information. He is currently serving as the center’s part-time executive director. Additionally, he is a member of the Transparency Task team at the Institute for Public Dialogue at Columbia University led by Professor Joseph Stiglitz. In recent years, Professor Calland served as an expert consultant to the Carter Center, advising on various transparency projects in Bolivia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Peru, and Mali. He writes a fortnightly political column for the Mail and Guardian newspaper, Contretemps and is a regular commentator in the media. In 2005, he spent two terms as a visiting scholar at Cambridge University’s Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. In 2006, he spent a month as a visiting lecturer in constitutional law at the law department of Meiji University, Tokyo. Before coming to South Africa in 1994, he practiced law at the London Bar. He holds an LL.M. from the University of Cape Town, a diploma in world politics from the London School of Economics, and a BA. (Hons) in law from the University of Durham.
Professor Pierre de Vos is the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance and teaches in the area of constitutional law at the University of Cape Town. He has a BComm (Law), LLB, and LLM (cum laude) from the University of Stellenbosch, an LLM from Columbia University, and an LLD from the University of Western Cape. He taught at the University of Western Cape from 1993 until June 2009 and has held a professorship at that institution since 2001. Professor de Vos is the chairperson of the Board of the Aids Legal Network and is also a board member of Triangle Project. He writes a blog on social and political issues from a constitutional law perspective, which is widely read and quoted. His recent articles include the following:
Amanda Gouws is a professor of political science at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. In 2007 she was the Edith Keeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor at Northwestern University. She holds a PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She specializes in South African politics, gender politics, and political behavior.
She has published widely on issues related to South African politics, including the electoral system, women's representation and the National Gender Machinery for Women, and sexual harassment. She co-authored Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion with James Gibson from Washington University in St. Louis (Cambridge University Press 2003), which received the Alexander George Book Award for best book in political psychology in 2003. She edited (Un)Thinking Citizenship: Feminist Debates in Contemporary South Africa (UK: Ashgate and Cape Town: Juta, 2005), which looks closely at the conditions of citizenship for women in South Africa. It was selected book of the month for February 2007 by Constitutional Hill, the seat of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. Her recent articles in academic peer-reviewed journals have appeared in Signs, African and Asian Studies, Journal of International Women's Studies, Feminist Africa, Politikon, American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, and the South African Journal of Higher Education.
In 2004, she received the Rector's Award for Excellence in Research. She conducted a major research project on conditions of care in communities in South Africa with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence from the perspective of the feminist ethics of care. She is also doing research on the South African Women's Movement and its trajectory in post-Apartheid South Africa. She is a board member of the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town.
Steven Robins is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Stellenbosch. He has published on a wide range of topics, including the politics of land; 'development' and identity in Zimbabwe and South Africa; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; urban studies; and most recently on citizenship and governance. His book From Revolution to Rights in South Africa: Social Movements and Popular Politics (2008) focuses on globally connected social movements, NGOs, and CBOs that are involved in democratic struggles over access to AIDS treatment, land, and housing. He edited Limits to Liberation After Apartheid: Citizenship, Governance and Culture (David Philip, James Currey, and Ohio University Press, 2005). He also edited a volume with Nick Shepherd, New South African Keywords (Jacana and Ohio University Press, 2008).
Dr. Hill is a sociologist currently located in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Stellenbosch (near Cape Town). Originally from Port Elizabeth, he spent time in France and England before returning to South Africa to take up his current position. His current research interests are situated within the broad overlapping fields of critical sociolinguistics and the sociology of language.
Kees van der Waal has conducted ethnographic research in poor rural areas in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, where he has investigated the role of crafts in the informal sector; social relationships (residential instability, gender violence); and the impact of development interventions. His interest in the anthropology of development is reflected in a recent study he completed of the complexity of local development in the Dwars River Valley near Stellenbosch. Another area of interest is Afrikaner identity politics as a basis for the polarisation between volkekunde and social anthropology, and for recent ethno-cultural manifestations, such as the Afrikaans language debate and popular music. He is also interested in the role of ethnographic fieldwork in research methodology.
Kees van der Waal is the vice president of Anthropology Southern Africa and serves on the editorial boards of the association's journal Anthropology Southern Africa, as well as the SAVUSA (South Africa-VU University Amsterdam-Strategic Alliances) publication program.
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 firsthand at the same time as you’re learning about them in a classroom setting.
Claire Oatey, Whitman College
The program features several homestays designed to introduce students firsthand to South Africa’s cultural diversity. Students spend three weeks with isiXhosa-speaking families in Langa Township in Cape Town, one week with families in the rural Eastern Cape (Tshabo), 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 isiXhosa-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 informal 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 and 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 Robben 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 Robben Island is typically arranged during the Langa homestay; other excursions may include hiking Table Mountain or Lion’s Head 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. Early settlers of the Cape Town area included slaves from South Asia and the Indian Ocean basin and political prisoners who pioneered Islam, all of whom influenced the area’s cultural and social practices.
During the Bo Kaap homestay period, students interrogate “colored” identity and visit museums such as District Six 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 Georgian architecture that was typical during the area’s development in the early to mid-nineteenth century.
Students spend one week living with families in the village of Tshabo situated near King Williams Town, the capital of the Eastern Cape Province. This homestay offers students an excellent opportunity to experience rural life, examine issues of rural development, and practice isiXhosa.
During the Tshabo 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 Tshabo’s history and culture.
During their time in Tshabo, 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 of Cape Town. The city is home to one of South Africa’s leading tertiary educational institutions, Stellenbosch University.
During this period, students attend classes at Stellenbosch University and undertake excursions, including the town of Paarl, home to the Afrikaans Language Monument. An excursion to the Solms Delta Wine Estate is also arranged, giving students the opportunity to learn about the social history of the farm and programs being implemented at the winery to empower farm workers and their families. 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.
In addition to homestay accommodation, other housing options during the program may include lodges, private homes, or small hotels and camping.
A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.
Program Arrival Date: Jan 27, 2017
Program Departure Date: May 11, 2017
The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.
Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.
Application Deadline: Nov 1, 2016
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $ 88
Books & Supplies: $ 225
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.