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South Africa: Social and Political Transformation

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation

Explore the socioeconomic, political, and cultural dynamics of South Africa—an extraordinarily diverse country in transition.

Through coursework and community engagement, students on this program focus on issues of memory, reconciliation, development, and nation building as they relate to South Africa’s social and political transformations in the 20 years after apartheid. The program includes multiple excursions, including a comparative visit to neighboring Mozambique, which played a significant role in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and has pursued a different path in its own recent history of independence.

Major topics of study include:

  • The historical background of South Africa's apartheid system, the dismantling of that system, and emerging visions for post-apartheid South Africa
  • Re-membering the past through individual and popular memory and the role of memory in healing the trauma of the past
  • Reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
  • The evolution from the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) to a developmental state
  • The role of civil society, education, and media in the goal of nation building
  • The challenges of transition
  • Gender and social change
 
I can't begin to express how much I learned — both academically and personally — during my time on this program. I applied many of the concepts that I learned to my senior thesis — recently awarded the Johns Hopkins' Arthur Kouguell Memorial Prize — and my experiences on the Durban docks continued to serve as a major asset during all of my job interviews. My time spent interacting with members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union truly changed my life, and there is no doubt in my mind that my stories from within the Port of Durban will continue to help me as I work in America's labor movement.

Benjamin Mays, Johns Hopkins University

The South Africa: Social and Political Transformation program's complementary components — thematic lectures, hands-on experiential learning, isiZulu language instruction, field excursions, and homestays — illuminate South Africa's complexity and diversity, its poverty and richness, in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Discovering Durban

Hare Krishna FestivalThe program is based in South Africa's third-largest city, the bustling and historic city of Durban. Durban is the site of one of Africa's busiest working harbors and is among the most cosmopolitan of South African cities with its rich fusion of African, Western, and Asian influences. Durban and the province of KwaZulu-Natal are home to the Zulu people, South Africa's largest ethnic group; English-speaking whites, many the descendants of British settlers; the largest population of South Asians outside of India and Pakistan, including Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities; tens of thousands of African refugees; and African and Asian migrants from a range of countries. Parts of the city have transformed into distinct Ethiopian, Congolese, Malawian, Pakistani, Chinese, and other enclaves with a diversity of shops and restaurants.

Students learn about Durban and KwaZulu-Natal's rich history of political activity, which includes contributions from leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi, John Dube, and Chief Albert Luthuli. Durban was the foundation of organizations such as the African National Congress and the Natal Indian Congress.

isiZulu Instruction

DurbanA significant highlight of the program is the isiZulu language instruction, complemented by discussions of Zulu history and culture. As a language with many clicks, isiZulu is a fascinating and challenging language for English speakers to study. The course emphasizes beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction, with additional practice available during the homestay.

Independent Study Project

In the final month of the program, students complete an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP provides students with an opportunity to pursue a research-based project of original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to the student or a practicum-based project  developed with an affiliate organization working in social and/or political transformation. Projects are conducted in Durban or, with program approval, in another location appropriate to the student's topic.

Topics from recent programs have included:

  • Peace efforts in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Education policy reform and implementation
  • HIV/AIDS in South Africa
  • The prison system in South Africa
  • Independent churches and religion
  • Trade unions and the ANC alliance
  • African refugee communities in Durban
  • Township jazz and political resistance
  • The role of online media content in South Africa
  • Zulu traditional healing and Western medicine
  • Afrikaner identity
  • Political violence in KwaZulu-Natal

Access Virtual Library Guide

In this interdisciplinary program, lectures and discussions in the Social and Political Transformation seminar aim to provide students with a solid grasp of the historical background of South Africa's apartheid system; contemporary developments leading to the dismantling of that system; the role of memory in reconciliation; the visions for post-apartheid South Africa; the political, economic, and social structure of the future South Africa; and both anthropological and cultural approaches to understanding South African society. A central premise of the program’s two thematic seminars is the interconnected nature of issues of reconciliation and development in South Africa. The Research Methods and Ethics seminar addresses culturally appropriate, ethical field methodologies, in preparation for the Independent Study Project (ISP), while isiZulu language study opens windows into the cultural base and theme of the program.

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.

Memory and Reconciliation in South Africa - syllabus
(POLI 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
An interdisciplinary seminar conducted in English focusing on: 1) the challenges of transition; 2) re-membering the past through individual and popular memory; and 3) the challenges and processes of reconciliation and the current state of the nation, through an exploration of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), among other approaches, in a fledgling democracy. The course aims to provide students with a solid grasp of the historical background of South Africa's apartheid system; contemporary developments leading to the dismantling of that system; the visions for post-apartheid South Africa; the political, economic, and social structure of the future South Africa; and the role of memory in healing the trauma of the past.

Development, Transformation, and Nation Building - syllabus
(SDIS 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
An interdisciplinary seminar conducted in English focusing on: 1) development in South Africa; 2) nation building explored through education and the media in South Africa; and 3) gender and social change. A central premise of this course is the interconnected nature of issues of development and nation building in South Africa; as such, when focusing in the first instance upon issues of development, students will also consider how the issue impacts and is shaped by specific patterns of nation building. Core themes addressed in this course include the evolution from the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) to a developmental state, and the role of civil society, education, and media in the goal of nation building. 

Intensive Language Study: isiZulu - syllabus
(ZULU 1000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. The course aims to develop conversational abilities in isiZulu and provide greater insight into various aspects of Zulu culture through discussions and excursions.

Research Methods and Ethics - syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The seminar provides an introduction to the Independent Study Project and related material including 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
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Durban or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Students may choose to complete either a research-based or practicum-based Independent Study Project, the former being a traditional research paper and the latter emerging from a practicum with an affiliated organization working in social and/or political transformation. Sample topic areas: HIV/AIDS in South Africa; peace efforts in KwaZulu-Natal; democracy as seen by South Africans; education policy reform and implementation; the prison system in South Africa; independent churches and religion; the role of online media content in South Africa; trade unions and the ANC alliance; township jazz and political resistance; land reform; Zulu traditional healing and Western medicine; Afrikaner identity.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

SowetoEducational excursions are an integral part of the SIT South Africa: Social and Political Transformation program. Designed to directly complement learning conducted in the classroom, excursions give students the opportunity to explore South Africa's socioeconomic complexity, diversity, and natural beauty in greater depth.

In and around Durban

In the greater Durban area, students visit and interact with the residents of an informal shack dwellers settlement. They also visit an informal African traders market (including a traditional bead market), an ecotourism project, a center for jazz and popular music, the University of KwaZulu-Natal campus, and several local high schools. Students also visit the Luthuli Museum, the former home of the first African Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chief Albert Luthuli, and the Phoenix Settlement, the former Durban home of Mohandas Gandhi, now a museum.

Johannesburg

During the Johannesburg excursion, students spend time at the following sites:

  • The Apartheid Museum
  • The Constitutional Court, Soweto — where students visit the Hector Pieterson Museum
  • The Mandela House — the former home of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, now a museum

Mozambique

An excursion to Mozambique provides students with a firsthand opportunity to learn of the shared histories of South Africa and Mozambique, with a focus on the key collaborative role played by Mozambique’s ruling party — FRELIMO — in the liberation struggle against apartheid following its own hard-fought independence movement from Portugal in the 1970s. Students learn of the African National Congress’s military wing — Umkhonto we Sizwe — and its bases of operations throughout Mozambique, witness the physical effects of the South African apartheid government’s attacks in the capital, Maputo, and meet key individuals and institutions, with a view toward the shared, but divergent, project of political transformation in both countries. Excursions in and around Maputo typically include visits to museums, sites of ANC armed struggle, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, and a discussion at the FRELIMO Party School with Dr. Arlindo Chilundo, the head of the school, a fighter on the frontlines during Mozambique’s liberation war, and currently Mozambique’s minister of education. Read more about the relationship between South Africa and Mozambique in a column in Durban’s Mercury by Imraan Buccus, academic director of South Africa: Social and Political Transformation.

Rural KwaZulu-Natal

Rural SchoolIn week six of the program, students undertake an eight-day rural homestay during which they live with families in the Amacambini Reserve, about a 90-minute drive north of Durban. During this excursion, students engage in a special educational program with the graduating class at Amatikulu High School.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Students visit the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in South Africa, where, with luck, they may spot the "Big Five" (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and black and white rhinoceros), as well as giraffes and zebras.

Cape Town

During the evaluation period, the program visits Cape Town, where students typically visit Robben Island and Table Mountain. Students may also have some time to explore the city on their own.

Imraan BuccusImraan Buccus, Academic Director

Mr. Buccus has an undergraduate degree in education and a master’s degree in social policy from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa. During the period of apartheid, he was active in student politics, having served on forums linked to the Student Representative Council (SRC). He began his PhD as a Ford Fellow in Development Studies at Radboud Nijmegen University in the Netherlands and is currently a PhD fellow at UKZN. He has been a lecturer in political science at UKZN and is currently a research fellow in the university’s School of Politics. He is widely published in academic journals and book chapters in the areas of participatory democracy, poverty, and civil society. Mr. Buccus is the former editor of Critical Dialogue, a journal of public participation in review, and the current editor of Democracy Dialogue.

Mr. Buccus has experience in the civil society sector, having served in research and policy NGOs for many years. He was involved in a number of international research projects and co-authored the National Framework on Public Participation for the South African government. During his time at the Centre for Public Participation, he led an initiative to bring policymaking spaces closer to ordinary people and also led a project to assess the state of participatory democracy in Namibia. He has wide-ranging experience working with various donor agencies including the Ford Foundation, NiZA, EU, Kellogg Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation.

Mr. Buccus has worked as academic coordinator of the Workers College, a progressive experiential education college for workers from the trade union movement, where he developed a passion for experiential education and its personal and academic developmental potential. In 2008, he was an Open Society Foundation Media Fellow, and in 2009 he appeared on the prestigious Mail & Guardian list of South Africa’s 200 Leading Young South Africans. He is currently a columnist for Durban’s popular morning paper The Mercury and is often called upon by television and radio stations to offer political analysis. In 2011, he was part of the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s team of election analysts.

Mr. Buccus has traveled extensively in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. He has also served as academic director of various SIT Study Abroad summer programs since 2010, having run both SIT’s World Cup program in 2010 and, since 2011, SIT’s Education and Social Change program.

Bryan StoneBryan Stone, Program Assistant and isiZulu Language Instructor

Bryan joined SIT as a language instructor in 2013 and brings a wealth of experience to the Social and Political Transformation program. He completed his BA in isiZulu and psychology in 2010 and received a diploma in jazz in 2013 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has also taught isiZulu for the past three years at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College, Westville, and medical school campuses.
 
Bryan has lived in Durban since 2009 and loves Durban for its “laid-back” lifestyle. He is trying to learn how to surf, and is called Zamani (which means “try”) by his Zulu friends. Growing up, he moved around a lot and experienced the many corners of South Africa during several family vacations. He also plays the drums for The Sir Walrus Band.

Shola Haricharan, Office Manager and Homestay Coordinator

Shola currently serves as the program's office manager and homestay coordinator. She has been vital to the program in various capacities since its inception in 1992. Prior to that, Shola worked in administrative capacities with a number of nongovernmental groups, some of them active in the anti-apartheid struggle.

Drs. Thembisa Waetjen and Geoff Waters

A historian and sociologist respectively, Dr. Waetjen and Dr. Waters are both specialists in research methods and run the Research Methods and Ethics seminar, which is geared to facilitating the production of a successful Independent Study Project (ISP) research proposal. Thembisa is a current faculty member at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and Geoff is a retired professor of sociology.

The program also draws on a number of guest lecturers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the NGO sector.
 
John DanielJohn Daniel, PhD, Lecturer

SIT remembers John Daniel, PhD – former Academic Director and Academic Coordinator of South Africa: Social and Political Transformation; lecturer; advisor; activist; exile; intellectual; educator; caring and compassionate human being; and inspiration and mentor to hundreds of SIT students. Professor Daniel passed away on 25 July 2014.  

John Daniel was a South African citizen with a BA (1964) in political science from the University of Natal, South Africa and an MA and PhD (1975) in political science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He taught at universities in the United States, Swaziland, the Netherlands, and South Africa. He was active in student politics in South Africa and served two terms as president of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS).

Dr. Daniel went into exile in 1968 and returned to South Africa in 1991 to head the International Studies Unit at Rhodes University. In 1993, he assumed the chair (headship) in political science at the University of Durban-Westville. From 1997 to 1999, he was seconded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as senior researcher responsible for documenting the South African state's gross human rights violations outside South Africa. In 2001, he joined the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa's national social science council, as a researcher in governance and democracy and as the head of its publishing arm, the HSRC Press. From 2002 to 2006, he co-edited and contributed to four volumes in the HSRC's State of the Nation series.

In recent years, John’s writings were primarily concerned with issues of transitional justice in South Africa and on the political economy of South African-African relations post-apartheid. In 2006, Dr. Daniel retired from the HSRC and joined SIT as an academic coordinator; he eventually took over as the program’s academic director, a position he held until June 2011, when he was succeeded by Imraan Buccus.

John Daniel lectured on a variety of topics with an emphasis on issues of transitional justice in South Africa and on the political economy of South African-African relations post-apartheid. He will be deeply missed.

Lecturers include:

Kiru Naidoo, Lecturer, ISP Advisor

Kiru Naidoo studied political science and development at the universities of Durban-Westville and Cambridge. He also has expertise in marketing and communications. He has been the director of public affairs at UDW and senior manager for communications in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government. He has also held positions at the universities of Natal and Durban-Westville, Durban University of Technology, National Research Foundation, and the South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development. Kiru is a valued member of the SIT family, as lecturer and ISP advisor.

Michael Sutcliffe, PhD, Lecturer, ISP Advisor

Michael Sutcliffe has an MSc from the University of Natal and a PhD in city planning from Ohio State University. He was appointed chairperson of South Africa’s Demarcation Board in the post-apartheid order by President Mandela and was Durban’s city manager, or mayor, for nine years. Dr. Sutcliffe played a significant role in the country’s anti-apartheid struggle and is widely recognized as an influential member of the African National Congress, the ruling party in South Africa.

Janine Hicks, Lecturer, ISP Advisor

Janine Hicks is a senior commissioner with South Africa’s Commission on Gender Equality. She holds a master’s in development studies from the University of Sussex and an LLB from the former University of Natal, Durban. She has more than two decades of experience working with South African civil society and educational institutions, and is widely published in the areas of participatory democracy, gender issues, and access to education for women in South Africa. She is a dedicated member of the SIT family and, as ISP advisor, has mentored several SIT students to research awards, and publication of their ISPs.

Thembisa Waetjen, PhD, Lecturer, ISP Advisor

Thembisa Waetjen holds a BA from the University of California Berkeley and an MA and PhD from the University of Oregon. Her PhD dissertation focused on constructions of masculinities in the 1980s Inkatha movement. More recently, her work has explored the lives of Muslim women in Durban and the ways that political action and civic identities are influenced by gender and culture.

Dr. Nthabiseng Motsemme, Lecturer, ISP Advisor

Nthabiseng is the director of Postgraduate and Research Capacity Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She has also held positions at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) as a researcher and at the University of the Western Cape as a lecturer. She was also the manager of the university-wide funding and research capacity programme for young, black, and female researchers and the Women-in-Research Initiative at the University of South Africa Research Directorate. She currently sits on a number of editorial boards for academic journals, including African Identities, Africa Education Review, and Feminist Legal Studies. Her research interests include African feminist and womanist theories, township women’s identities, and women’s experiences in higher education.

Geoff Waters, Lecturer

Geoff has a master’s degree in economics from Manchester University (UK) and has been a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Natal (now UKZN). He has expertise in social research methodology (qualitative), urban life and culture, and rural community life. His research interests include homeless people of the inner city, street children in central Durban, and retirement communities.

Additional lecturers include:

  • Prof. Chris Ballantyne on music and resistance in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa
  • Mr. David Ntseng on the issue of public housing, service delivery, and the empowerment of the poor in South Africa
  • Prof. Percy Mabogo, South Africa’s foremost Bikoist, on the role of Steve Biko in South Africa’s transformation
  • Aziz Pahad, former minister of foreign affairs, on South Africa’s foreign policy
  • Judge Chris Nicholson, the judge who presided over President Jacob Zuma’s trial, on the state of South Africa’s constitution
  • Dr. Cathy Oelofse on the environment and development in South Africa
  • Dr. Brendon Boyce on land reform and restitution in South Africa
  • Mr. Richard Dobson and Mr. Charles Mncube on the informal trade sector in South Africa
  • Dr. Ben Roberts on the South African economy

Students in the South Africa: Social and Political Transformation program experience three different homestays, each of which opens a larger window into South Africa's extraordinary diversity and complexity. Homestays are in urban, suburban, and rural areas. In each of the homestays, students are either in neighborhood clusters or placed with families in pairs.

Cato Manor

Cato ManorThe program's first homestay is with isiZulu-speaking families in Cato Manor, an urban township about five kilometers from the SIT facility in Durban. Each student spends approximately five weeks with his or her own family, within a quarter of a mile of other students, and within a mile of the whole group. The homestay in Cato Manor allows students the opportunity to practice isiZulu and gain an appreciation for the richness and challenges of township life. All houses have cell phone reception, flush toilets, and electricity, and are constructed of cinder brick.

homestay familyAmacambini

In the rural homestay in Amacambini, about 100 kilometers north of Durban, conditions are basic, with some marked differentiation between households. Some households may not have electricity, indoor plumbing, or piped water.

Newlands

During the program's third homestay, students live in Newlands with an Indian or Coloured family. Newlands is approximately 20 kilometers from Durban’s city center.

Independent Study Project (ISP) Accommodation

During the ISP period, many students remaining in Durban choose to stay in apartments at the beachfront, which underwent a stunning renovation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Other accommodations during the program may include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

Program Dates: Spring 2015

Program Start Date:  Jan 30, 2015

Program End Date:    May 14, 2015

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, 2014

 

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.

Tuition: $15,570

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Memory and reconciliation
    • Development and nation building
  • Research Methods and Ethics training in preparation for the Independent Study Project (ISP)
  • Intensive language instruction in isiZulu
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, rural KwaZulu-Natal, and a game reserve, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board:$2,810

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 (Durban), 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 (including five weeks with isiZulu-speaking families, and two weeks with mixed race “coloured” or Indian families. There is also an eight-day rural homestay with isiZulu-speaking families.)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare

International airfares 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

Immunizations varies

Books & Supplies :$50

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during a semester abroad 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.

 

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