Explore historical and contemporary multiculturalism, ethnicity, and identity in South Africa.
Experience an important time in South Africa’s history as the country deals with apartheid’s legacy.
South Africa has made great strides in righting the wrongs of the past, but significant challenges remain. The country 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 confront a high rate of societal violence and a still-uneasy racial divide. You’ll examine the historical background of South Africa’s apartheid system, how apartheid’s legacy continues to impact social policy, and visions for post-apartheid South Africa. You will explore these issues in meetings with inspiring individuals and at organizations making a difference.
Live and study in Cape Town
Spend the first four weeks of the program in Langa township. Primarily isiXhosa-speaking, Langa was one of many areas designated for black South Africans and is one of the oldest townships in the country. SIT’s classrooms and office are in the southern suburb of Rondebosch, also the site of the University of Cape Town. Depending on where you carry out your independent research, you may spend another two weeks in Cape Town during your Independent Study Project.
Explore South Africa’s multiple identities
You will engage deeply with South Africa’s history of multiculturalism and apartheid, but also on ethnic identities today and how they are reflected on national, regional, local, and individual levels. You’ll study how race relations in South Africa shape and are shaped by contested histories, politics, and social welfare programs. Through four homestays, you will become immersed in a variety of South African cultures.
Experience four homestays with isiXhosa- and Afrikaans-speaking families.
You’ll stay for three weeks with a family in Langa Township in Cape Town and for one week each in Bo Kaap, Stellenbosch, and rural Tshabo. The homestays will give you a glimpse into the different experiences of South Africa’s various ethnic groups.
Travel to important sites throughout South Africa.
You’ll see Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison. You’ll travel to the Steve Biko Centre on the Eastern Cape, where you’ll learn about the Black Consciousness movement. You’ll also visit either the Buffelsfontein Game Reserve or the Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve.
Learn isiXhosa and Afrikaans.
A tonal language with click consonants, isiXhosa is spoken widely across South Africa. You will receive intensive isiXhosa language instruction focusing on beginning speaking and comprehension skills. These skills give you the opportunity to meaningfully engage with isiXhosa-speaking communities, and you can practice your new skills during your Langa homestay.
You will also learn introductory Afrikaans, a language that emerged 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.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- The historical background to South Africa’s apartheid system, how apartheid shaped and continues to impact social policy in South Africa, and the visions for post-apartheid South Africa
- Social change in education, language use, land, social justice organizations, party politics, rural development, social welfare NGOs, and tourism in three cultural contexts: Xhosa, Coloured/Khoe, and Afrikaner
- Critical identity markers beyond race—such as gender, sexuality, class, or generational or political affiliation which cut across cultural contexts in post-apartheid South Africa
- The political, economic, and social structure of the future South Africa
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. All components are intricately linked so that students acquire the knowledge and understanding to successfully complete an Independent Study Project.
The following syllabi are representative of 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.
- Multiculturalism and Human Rights in South Africa – syllabus
- (AFRS3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- An interdisciplinary course conducted in English with required readings, examining the historical background to South Africa's apartheid system; how apartheid shaped and continues to impact social policy in South Africa; the visions for post-apartheid South Africa; and the political, economic, and social structure of the future South Africa.
- Narratives of Identity and Social Change – syllabus
- (SOCI3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, investigating social change in education, language use, land, social justice organizations, party politics, rural development, social welfare NGOs, and tourism in three cultural contexts: Xhosa, Coloured/Khoe, and Afrikaner. Critical identity markers beyond race in post-apartheid South Africa —- which cut across these cultural contexts —- such as gender, sexuality, class, or generational or political affiliation, for example, are also examined and analyzed with respect to their experiences and meaning in contemporary society.
- isiXhosa – syllabus
- (XHOS1003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. In addition, students receive introductory oral Afrikaans instruction.
- Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- The Research Methods and Ethics course enables students to understand field-based learning techniques, critical ethical issues involved in the research process and design, and the requisite knowledge and skills to effectively carry out mentored independent research in South Africa. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a field journal.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in Cape Town or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: equity in education; affirmative action issues; the role of Afrikaans in a multilingual society; Xhosa women in contemporary South African society; socioeconomic realities of HIV/AIDS; student politics and university life; hate speech, racism, and freedom of expression; the role of religion in social change; the police, law, and social justice; microenterprise and the new South Africa; perceptions of LGBT identity in Cape Town; individual versus group identity.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
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-20th century, the population of Cape Town had reached approximately a half million, of which whites were less than half. Economic hardship and racial discrimination encouraged policies that favored whites, creating economic and cultural differences that steadily split the population along racial lines. Immigrants, coloured, 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. Throughout the semester, you will take day excursions to museums, historical sites, self-help schemes, and community organizations around Cape Town. You will also conduct brief fieldwork investigations in local schools and NGOs.
Later in the semester, the group takes longer excursions outside of Cape Town.
Johannesburg is South Africa’s economic capital and largest city. It 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 and a place of significant resistance to apartheid and gross human rights violations by the South African state.
While in Johannesburg, you will visit the Constitutional Court, the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Peterson Museum, and Nelson Mandela’s House (now a museum) in Soweto. You will also visit Liliesleaf Farm and the underground headquarters of Umkonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of African National Congress during the struggle.
The program also visits Pretoria, the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa, where you will visit the Voortrekker Monument and Museum and the Union Buildings.
A major 14-day excursion takes you to the village of Tshabo on the Eastern Cape. You will traverse 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 provides a dramatic backdrop for the moral struggles around colonialism, expansionism, race, and freedom. During an eight-day homestay with an amaXhosa community in Tshabo, a village near King Williams Town, you will have an opportunity to visit the Steve Biko Centre and learn about the Black Conscious Movement and its relevance to past and present-day South Africa.
Program in a minute-ish
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Stewart Chirova, MS and MPS, Academic Director
A Zimbabwe national, Stewart 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. Stewart served as academic director of SIT’s program in Botswana from 2001 through 2010, and has directed this program since 2010. In addition to his role as academic director, from 2007 to 2009, he was a member and later chair of the Program Affairs Committee on the SIT Study Abroad Governance Council.
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.
Tabisa Dyonase, Program Assistant
Tabisa obtained a BA 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 University of South Africa. She has been with SIT since 2007, helping students adapt to the program by addressing 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.
Emma Arogundade, MPhil, Academic Coordinator
Emma has an MPhil in critical diversity studies from the University of Cape Town, where she has also taught courses on race, class, and gender; development theory and practice (with a critical postcolonial lens); and 21st-century culture and society. She was a senior researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council, where her projects included a qualitative, longitudinal study looking at race, education, and emancipation in higher education in South Africa, and another on privilege and social justice in four African institutions. She has numerous publications, some academic and some generated during her time working at various NGOs in gender, gender violence, human rights, HIV/AIDS, and municipal service delivery. She joined SIT full time in 2016 after having taught and supervised SIT students on a consultative basis for many years.
Shifra Jacobson, Diversity Coordinator
Shifra holds an advanced diploma in adult education and a postgraduate diploma in women and gender studies. She is a freelance consultant involved in training that promotes productive and peaceful strategies for working and living together. As a human rights activist, she has facilitated numerous programs on diversity, gender, and prevention of discrimination in all its forms. Shifra was the head of Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, an organization that promoted children’s rights during South Africa’s transformative years. She has also worked as a consultant to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, where she piloted a program on a community-based response to child protection. Shifra has trained and worked with a diverse population ranging from police personnel to disabled children and has contributed to various publications.
Lecturers for this program typically include:
Mohamed Adhikari, PhD
Mohamed 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 focus on settler colonialism and genocide. He has published several books, including 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) and Burdened by Race: Coloured Identities in Southern Africa (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2009).
Richard Calland, LLM
Richard holds an LLM from the University of Cape Town, a diploma in world politics from the London School of Economics, and a BA in law from the University of Durham. He is an associate professor in the University of Cape Town’s Public Law Department, where he teaches constitutional and human rights. He specializes in access to information and whistle-blowing protections, administrative justice, public ethics, and 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 1995 to 2003. Richard founded the Open Democracy Advice Centre. He is a member of the Transparency Task team at the Institute for Public Dialogue at Columbia University, and he served as an expert consultant to the Carter Center on transparency projects in Bolivia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Peru, and Mali. He writes a political column for the Mail and Guardian newspaper and is a regular media commentator.
Pierre de Vos, LLM, LLD
Pierre 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 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 to 2009 and has held a professorship there since 2001. Pierre chairs the Board of the Aids Legal Network and is 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.
Amanda Gouws, PhD
Amanda holds a PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is a professor of political science at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. She specializes in South African politics, gender politics, and political behavior and has published widely on issues related to South African politics. She is a board member of the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. Amanda is co-author of Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion with James Gibson from Washington University in St. Louis. Her recent articles have appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals. Amanda conducted a major research project on South Africa with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence from the perspective of feminist ethics of care. She is also researching the women’s movement in post-apartheid South Africa.
Lloyd Hill, PhD
Lloyd is a sociologist 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 research interests are within the broad overlapping fields of critical sociolinguistics and the sociology of language. Recent publications include “Language, Residential Space and Inequality in Cape Town: Broad-Brush Profiles and Trends” in African Population Studies; “Reflections on the 1862 Football Match in Port Elizabeth” in the South African Journal for Sport, Physical Education and Recreation; and “Language and Status: On the Limits of Language Planning” in Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics.
Steven Robins, PhD
Steven has a PhD from Columbia University and is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Stellenbosch. He has published on 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 2008 book From Revolution to Rights in South Africa: Social Movements and Popular Politics focuses on globally connected social movements, NGOs, and CBOs involved in democratic struggles over access to AIDS treatment, land, and housing. He edited Limits to Liberation After Apartheid: Citizenship, Governance and Culture. He also edited a volume with Nick Shepherd, New South African Keywords.
Kees van der Waal, PhD
Kees obtained his PhD at the University of Johannesburg and is a social anthropologist in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Stellenbosch. He 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, and the impact of development interventions. His interest in the anthropology of development is reflected in his recent study of local development in the Dwars River Valley near Stellenbosch. He is vice president of Anthropology Southern Africa and serves on the editorial boards of the association’s journal Anthropology Southern Africa as well as the South Africa-VU University Amsterdam-Strategic Alliances publication program.
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 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.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
This program features four homestays designed to introduce you to South Africa’s broad cultural diversity. 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. You will 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 a bilingual family in Bo Kaap.
Langa is one of the oldest townships (residential areas for non-white people) that emerged following the passage of the Urban Areas Act in 1923. The word langa literally means “sun” but the name of the township actually derives from Langalibalele, a rebel chief imprisoned at Robben Island for rebelling against the government. Langa was a planned town and looks radically different from informal settlements that dot the Cape Town landscape. It is a vibrant community that values education and sports and has a very strong Christian identity. Families are usually five to six members. Each weekday, you will commute to the suburb of Rondebosch for classes; you’ll spend weekends with your host family. An excursion to Robben Island is usually arranged during the Langa homestay; other excursions may include hiking Table Mountain or Lion’s Head or visiting the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
You will spend one week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Bo Kaap, one of the best known and most photographed areas of Cape Town. 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-19th century. Early settlers of the Cape Town area included slaves from South Asia and the Indian Ocean basin and political prisoners, all of whom influenced the area’s cultural and social practices. Today, Bo Kaap is closely associated with traditional Islam and the Cape Malay community. During this homestay, you will examine “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.
You will spend a week with a family in the village of Tshabo near King Williams Town, the capital of the Eastern Cape Province. This homestay is an excellent opportunity to experience rural life, examine issues of rural development, and practice isiXhosa. You may visit local rural projects run by NGOs and schools; observe traditional rituals and compare and contrast urban and rural Xhosa cultures; and hear lectures by local experts on education, social development, economics, and Tshabo’s history and culture. During this homestay, you will also conduct a mini field assignment to practice your research methods and enhance your confidence for the four-week Independent Study Project.
You will spend a week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape Province about 50 kilometers from Cape Town. The city is home to Stellenbosch University, where you will attend classes. Students engage with faculty and local students on issues related to the future of the Afrikaans language as a language of instruction and a cultural symbol. The language debate has put Stellenbosch University in a tug-of-war that demands tolerance, flexibility, and imagination in development of a language policy that is realistic and inclusive. Conversations on this issue typically extend beyond the classroom with Afrikaner host families.
From here, you will take excursions to the town of Paarl, home to the Afrikaans Language Monument, and to the Solms Delta Wine Estate to learn about the social history of the farm and programs to empower farm workers and their families.
Other housing options during the program may include lodges, private homes, or small hotels and camping.
Here's what alumni are saying about South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights:
I was surprised by the role that apartheid’s legacy plays in South Africa today. Despite significant political and social progress since 1994, many material and social inequalities persist. Compared to mainstream American culture, which has the tendency to try to keep quiet about our history of racial injustices, South African culture seems to be much more open about discussing the injustices of its past and how this history directly affects present-day life.
Wellesley College 2018
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
You will spend four weeks near the end of the semester working on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a selected topic. The ISP is conducted in Cape Town or another approved location appropriate to the project.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- Equity in education
- Affirmative action issues
- The role of Afrikaans in a multilingual society
- Xhosa women in contemporary South African society
- Socioeconomic realities of HIV/AIDS
- Student politics and university life
- Hate speech, racism, and freedom of expression
- The role of religion in social change
- The police, law, and social justice
- Microenterprise and the new South Africa
- Perceptions of LGBT identity in Cape Town
- Individual verses group identity
Students on this program represent a wide range of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue academic and professional work that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:
- Paralegal with Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Washington, DC
- Peace Corps volunteer in Gambia and Senegal
- Student coordinator at Kravis Leadership Institute, Claremont, CA
- AmeriCorps Vista volunteer with Colorado Construction Institute, Denver, CO
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Politics and human rights
- Multiculturalism and social change
- Governance, politics, and the constitution
- Research methods and ethics
- Intensive language instruction in isiXhosa
- All educational excursions to locations such as Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Western Cape province, and visits to rural areas, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $3,025
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Cape Town), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
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.