South Africa

Multiculturalism and Human Rights

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

At a Glance





Language of Study

isiXhosa, Afrikaans

Courses taught in



Jan 28 ‎– May 12

On Site Component

Jan 28 ‎– May 12

Program Countries

South Africa

Program Base

Cape Town

Critical Global Issue of Study

Peace & Justice

Peace & Justice Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study human rights in South Africa?

South Africa has made great strides in righting the wrongs of apartheid, but significant challenges remain. Cape Town’s population in the mid-20th century reached approximately a half million, of which whites were less than 15 percent. Economic hardship and racial discrimination designed policies that favored whites, creating economic and cultural differences that steadily split the nation along racial lines. Immigrants, blacks, and other groups struggled to define their identity and respond to discrimination. Afrikaner nationalism grew stronger in Cape Town and across South Africa, leading to a growing right-wing movement. Starting from your base in Cape Town, you’ll learn about how race relations continue to be shaped by a range of contested histories, politics, and social welfare programs. 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. Experience South Africa through the eyes of four diverse homestay families in city and rural locations.


  • Learn about multiculturalism in Johannesburg and Cape Town, including Langa and Bo Kaap.
  • Study race, racial construction and mobilization, human rights, land dispossessions, and resettlements.
  • Experience four homestays with isiXhosa- and Afrikaans-speaking families.





Johannesburg is South Africa’s economic capital and largest city. See the Constitutional Court, the Apartheid Museum, and Nelson Mandela’s House, now a museum, in Soweto—one of the country’s largest settlements and a place of resistance to apartheid and its gross human rights violations. Tour Liliesleaf Farm, the Hector Pieterson Museum, and the underground headquarters of the armed wing of the African National Congress. Visit Freedom Park, the first museum designed from the standpoint of the dispossessed 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 it’s 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.



Access virtual library guide.

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 or internship. All components are intricately linked so that students acquire the knowledge and understanding to successfully complete an Independent Study Project or internship.

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
  • Social change in education, language use, land, and party politics
  • Critical identity markers beyond race: gender, sexuality, and class
  • The three cultural contexts of Xhosa, Coloured, and Afrikaner
  • The political, economic, and social structure of future South Africa
  • 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 and skills 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.

Course Options

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.

Other Accommodations

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
Academic Director
Emma Arogundade, MPhil
Academic Coordinator
Tabisa Dyonase
Program Assistant
Richard Calland, LLM

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.

    See Full Breakdown

    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact for more information.

    Accessibility Overview
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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