South Africa

Social and Political Transformation

Explore the politics and culture of rapidly changing South Africa, as well as Swaziland and Mozambique, while engaging with renowned artists and intellectuals.

At a Glance

Credits

16

Prerequisites

None

Language of Study

isiZulu

Courses taught in

English

Dates

Jan 24 ‎– May 7

Program Countries

South Africa

Program Excursion Countries

Mozambique

Program Base

Durban

Critical Global Issue of Study

Geopolitics & Power

Geopolitics & Power Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon

Overview

Why study change in South Africa?

More than two decades into democracy, South Africa continues to struggle with the legacy of apartheid. With the highest income inequality in the world, South Africa is still transforming its political, educational, economic, and health sectors. In the historic coastal city of Durban, you’ll explore the history and dismantling of apartheid and visions for the country’s future. Choose from one of three program tracks. On the journalism track, you’ll work with award-winning journalists at Times Media Group in Cape Town to carry out the full scope of story development, from identifying and researching story ideas, determining newsworthiness, finding sources, working with editors, and adhering to the highest standards of journalism. On the internship track, you’ll gain professional experience in an international setting. And, on the research track, you’ll conduct field research and produce a substantive academic paper. Travel to Mozambique, which played a central role in South Africa’s journey to liberate itself from apartheid. Visit the Luthuli Museum, former home of the first African Nobel Peace Prize winner. Tour the Mandela House in Johannesburg and the Phoenix Settlement in Durban, home of the late Mohandas Gandhi. You will also see a wide range of exotic animals on safari in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve.

Highlights

  • Witness the mechanics and dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid system.
  • Travel to Mozambique for eight days to learn about its role in the struggle.
  • Visit the homes of the late Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, and others.
  • Observe lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, giraffes, and zebras on safari.

Prerequisites

None. For the journalism track, strong writing skills and an interest in journalism are essential. A writing sample may be required as part of the admissions process.

Excursions

In and Around Durban

Your base for the program will be in Durban, among the most cosmopolitan of South Africa’s cities with a rich fusion of African, western, and Asian influences. Parts of the city have transformed into distinct Ethiopian, Congolese, Malawian, Pakistani, Chinese, and other enclaves. Here, you will experience several fascinating excursions: You’ll visit residents of an informal shack dwellers settlement; an African traders’ market; an ecotourism project; a center for jazz and popular music; and local schools.

Johannesburg

In Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, you will visit the Apartheid Museum to gain a better understanding of the 20th century history of South Africa. You will see the Constitutional Court and Soweto, where you will learn about how students joined the struggle against apartheid at the Hector Pieterson Museum. You also will explore the Mandela House, former home of Nelson and Winnie Mandela.

Mozambique

Study the shared histories of South Africa and Mozambique and the key collaborative role played by Mozambique’s ruling party, Frelimo, in the liberation struggle against apartheid, following its own hard-fought independence from Portugal in the 1970s. Learn about the military wing of the African National Congress and bases of operations throughout Mozambique, and witness the physical effects of the South African apartheid government’s attacks in the capital, Maputo. Compare the political transformations of both countries.

Rural KwaZulu-Natal

In week six of the program, you will live with families in the Amacambini Reserve for 10 to 12 days. During this excursion, you will engage in a special educational program with the graduating class at Amatikulu High School.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Visit the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in South Africa, where you will have the chance to spot the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and black and white rhinoceri), as well as giraffes and zebras.

Cape Town

During the evaluation period, the program travels to Cape Town, where you will typically visit Robben Island, site of the prison that held late South African President Nelson Mandela for 18 years and many other political activists. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, you will trek or ride up the scenic cliffs of Table Mountain, part of the coastal Table Mountain National Park. You may have some time to explore the city on your own.

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

Academics

Coursework

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 and emerging visions for post-apartheid South Africa
  • Individual vs. popular memory; the role of memory in healing trauma
  • Reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Roles of civil society, education, and media in nation-building
  • The challenges of transition
  • Gender and social change

Memory and Reconciliation in South Africa

Memory and Reconciliation in South Africa – syllabus
(POLI3000 / 3 credits)

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

Development, Transformation, and Nation Building – syllabus

(SDIS3000 / 3 credits)
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.

isiZulu

isiZulu – syllabus
(ZULU1003 / 3 credits)

Emphasis is 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.

Course Options

In addition to taking the above courses, students will choose one of the following three tracks:

Field Ethics of Journalism in South Africa
Field Ethics of Journalism in South Africa – syllabus
(JOUR3500 / 3 credits)

This course provides students with the necessary background in the highest standards of journalism ethics, both conceptual and experiential, to prepare them to produce a major feature story in South Africa. In addition to two introductory modules on the context of fieldwork in South Africa, the course includes a module on a) journalism ethics, b) an overview of laws affecting the practice of journalism in South Africa and the legal milieu in which journalists in South Africa operate, c) ongoing reporting assignments, and d) pitching a professional story on an important issue in the South Africa. This becomes the subject of the student’s Independent Study Project in Journalism (ISPJ).

Independent Study Project in Journalism (ISPJ)
Independent Study Project in Journalism (ISPJ) – syllabus 
(ISPJ3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project in Journalism is conducted in an approved location in South Africa appropriate to the story being covered. Students execute a full-length feature (in the media format in which they have the most experience), which will be considered for publication or broadcast in the US and South Africa. Students have the rare opportunity to work in partnership with early-career journalists at The Times Media Group in Cape Town and Johannesburg. In this way, professional journalists provide students with hands-on advice and mentoring at every stage of story development.

Sample story topics:

  • Student leadership and the “fees must fall” protests
  • How racism persists—and does not persist—in South Africa
  • How indigenous South African music is resisting Western influences
  • Exploring “deracialization” and “re-racialization” in a free South Africa
  • Mandela-inspired leadership in civil society
  • Challenges of providing housing to 12 million people living in extreme poverty
  • Protecting native plants in a unique South African ecosystem

OR

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

A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The seminar provides an introduction to an Independent Study Project or internship 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.

Internship
Internship – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This course consists of a four-week internship with a national or international organization that is working on reconciliation and peacebuilding within the South African context. The internship enables students to obtain skills and knowledge in methods, principles of, and obstacles to promoting racial reconciliation and peace within societies that have been highly polarized by racialized social welfare policies and racialized national politics, as was the case in South Africa for many decades.

Sample internships:

  • Assisting creative solutions to challenges posed by conflict at ACCORD (African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes), Africa’s largest conflict resolution NGO, specializing in conflict management, analysis, and prevention through mediation, negotiation, training, and research
  • Promoting and developing inclusive urban planning and design at Asiye eTafuleni
  • Supporting research, public education, and legislative initiatives at the South African Commission on Gender Equality

OR

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

A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. The seminar provides an introduction to an Independent Study Project or internship 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
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

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 defined 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 their alliance with the African National Congress; township jazz and political resistance; Islam and Durban’s Indian community in contemporary South Africa; land reform; Zulu traditional healing and Western medicine; Afrikaner identity.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Peace efforts in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Democracy as defined by South Africans
  • Education policy reform and implementation
  • HIV/AIDS in South Africa
  • The prison system in South Africa
  • Independent churches and religion
  • Trade unions and their alliance with the African National Congress
  • 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
  • Islam and Durban’s Indian community in contemporary South Africa
  • Political violence in KwaZulu-Natal

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

Homestays

Cato Manor

Live with isiZulu-speaking families for five weeks in Cato Manor, an urban township about five kilometers from SIT’s Durban facility and very close to other students. You’ll practice isiZulu and witness the richness and challenges of daily life. You can expect to have cell phone reception, flush toilets, and electricity.

Amacambini

This is a rural homestay for 10 to 12 days in Amacambini, about 100 kilometers north of Durban. Some homes may not have electricity, indoor plumbing, or piped water.

Newlands

Live for about two weeks in Newlands, approximately 20 kilometers from Durban’s city center, with an Indian or Coloured family.

Other Accommodations

During the final four weeks of the program, many students in Durban choose to stay in beachfront apartments. Other accommodations during the program may include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

Career Paths

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Researcher for the Special Rapporteur for Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Memphis, TN

  • Researcher at ACCORD (Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes), Durban, South Africa

  • Policy Specialist at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability, Washington, DC

  • Researcher at National Geographic, Washington, DC

  • Manager at Open Society Foundation, London, UK

Faculty & Staff

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation

Imraan Buccus, PhD Fellow
Academic Director
Shola Haricharan
Office Manager and Homestay Coordinator
Geoff Waters, MA
Lecturer
Janine Hicks
Lecturer and ISP Advisor

Discover the Possibilities

  • COST & 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.

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  • OPINION: The day I met Kathy

    Meeting a legend in South Africa
    Student publishes article on late anti-apartheid leader

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  • The Mercury

    Academic Director Imraan Buccus puts politics into perspective.

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  • Ela Gandhi continues her grandfather’s legacy

    Our students in the South Africa program, Social and Political Transformation, had a chance to speak to Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Check out this article written by Jacky, one of our students.

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  • Meeting Mac Maharaj at the Moses Mabhida Stadium

    Meeting Mac Maharaj
    Students meet one of the fathers of democratic South Africa

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  • SIT Study Abroad offers journalism in story-rich South Africa

    Team up with award-winning journalists to write a story that’s ready for press

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Published Student Work

2018

2017