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South Africa

Multiculturalism and Human Rights

Examine historical and contemporary multiculturalism, ethnicity, and identity in South Africa.

At a Glance





Language of Study

isiXhosa, Afrikaans

Courses taught in



Aug 30 – Dec 12

Program Countries

South Africa

Program Base

Cape Town

Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Development & Inequality


Why study abroad in South Africa?

South Africa has made legislative strides in righting the wrongs of apartheid, but significant challenges remain. Historically, colonial and apartheid racial discrimination policies categorized people according to race, including Bantu (Black), Coloured (those who were not categorized as Bantu or white) and the minority white. Law created a racial hierarchy with white people at the top of the pyramid, and diminishing rights, access and “human-ness” moving down the hierarchy, which placed Coloured people as a buffer between those categorized as white and black. The cleavages of this legacy remain evident in the lived realities of South Africans.

Starting from your base in Cape Town, you’ll learn how race relations continue to be shaped by a range of contested histories, politics, resistance, activism, and the deployment of rights-based rhetoric. Journey to key sites such as the Steve Biko Centre, where you will study the Black Consciousness Movement, and Robben Island, the prison that held the late South African President Nelson Mandela. You will experience South Africa through the eyes of diverse homestay families in city and rural locations.


  • Experience different cultures through a range of lectures, excursions and homestays in Johannesburg, King Williams Town and Cape Town
  • Study race, racial construction and mobilization, resistance to oppression, and human rights
  • Experience four homestays with isiXhosa- and Afrikaans-speaking families including Langa, Tshabo and Bo-Kaap.



program map



Johannesburg is South Africa’s economic capital and largest city. See the Constitutional Court, the Apartheid Museum, and Winnie Mandela’s House, now a museum, in Soweto—one of the country’s largest townships and a place of resistance to apartheid and its gross human rights violations. Tour Klipfontein, where the first anti-apartheid Human Rights Charter was adopted by a collection of activists, the Hector Pieterson Museum. Visit Freedom Park, the first decolonial museum in South Africa.

Eastern Cape

Visit the rural settlement of Tshabo in the Eastern Cape. Be welcomed as guests into the life of the village, practice your isiXhosa, and experience the links and disparities between urban and rural life. In addition, we will visit the Steve Biko Centre and learn more about Black Consciousness and its relevance to past and present.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Explain South Africa’s political, economic, social and cultural landscape from historical and contemporary perspectives.
  • Evaluate the principles of human rights as applied to the case of South Africa.
  • Identify the core elements that shape human rights discourse in the country.
  • Describe the correlations between the principles of human rights in the South African context and the concepts of reconciliation, justice, equity, development, and nation-building.
  • Apply theories of multiculturalism to explain the nature and scope of multicultural discourses, policies, and rhetoric in South Africa.
  • Synthesize learning acquired on the program in the form of an Independent Study Project or internship experience paper.
  • Develop basic conversational skills in IsiXhosa.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Apartheid’s history and how it continues to impact South Africa
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  • Social change in education, language use, land, and party politics
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  • Critical identity markers beyond race: gender, sexuality, and class
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  • The three cultural contexts of Xhosa, Coloured, and Afrikaner
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  • The political, economic, and social structure of future South Africa
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  • Ethics field work for four-week Independent Study Project or internship

Multiculturalism and Human Rights in South Africa

Multiculturalism and Human Rights in South Africa – syllabus
(AFRS3000 / 3 credits)

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

Narratives of Identity and Social Change – syllabus
(SOCI3000 / 3 credits)

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, 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)

Emphasis on beginning speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. In addition, students receive introductory oral Afrikaans instruction.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

The Research Methods and Ethics course enables students to understand field-based learning techniques, critical ethical issues involved in research and internships, and the requisite knowledge to effectively carry out mentored independent research or an internship placement in Cape Town. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project/internship selection; appropriate methodologies and approaches; field study/work ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy for both research and internship placements.

Independent Study Project or Internship

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

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.

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will write an internship proposal, complete an ethics review process, and spend 30 hours a week interning with a local organization. Regular seminars and reflection sessions will assist in navigating and contextualizing the internship experience. A final internship report will incorporate their learning and experiences.

Sample internships:

  • Supporting youth development through social behavioral change, education, and job creation at gold Youth Development Agency
  • Assisting job creation, media creation, or narrative projects related to human rights issues at the Human Rights Media Centre
  • Supporting the social cohesion, women’s rights, and refugee services offered by the Whole World Women Association
  • Work with youth in an after-school program at Just Grace and support their efforts for comprehensive community development through education and social services.
  • Learn about the challenges and practice of social entrepreneurship using tourism as a leverage for community development at Ikhaya le Langa



Live for three weeks with isiXhosa-speaking families in a vital community that values education, sports, and a strong Christian identity. Attend classes in Rondebosch on weekdays and spend weekends with your host family.

Bo Kaap

Stay for a week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family in Bo Kaap, one of the most photographed areas of Cape Town, known for its rich history, cultural heritage, Georgian architecture, and brightly colored houses.


Live with a family for a week in the rural village of Tshabo, near King William’s Town, capital of the Eastern Cape Province. Experience rural life, and practice isiXhosa.


Spend a week with a bilingual Afrikaans- and English-speaking family. Attend classes in Stellenbosch and go on excursions to the Paardenkloof Wine and Ecology Estate and Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl.

Excursion & Orientation Accomodations

Other housing options may include lodges, private homes, or small hotels.

Career Paths

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

Faculty & Staff

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights

Stewart Chirova, MS, MPS bio link
Stewart Chirova, MS, MPS
Academic Director
Tabisa Dyonase bio link
Tabisa Dyonase
Program Assistant

Discover the Possibilities

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Alumni Testimonials

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.

Sofie Werthan
Wellesley College 2018