The university system in South Africa of course has its differences from that of the United States, but the similarities are clear: I attend classes, write papers, and study for exams. One course, however, has its students buzzing and pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone every day.
Joy, the lecturer for my anthropology class on Power and Wealth, has challenged us to take control of the course and our own education. She doesn’t give us lecture notes, she doesn’t assign weekly readings. We bow to each other at the beginning of every class to recognize each other’s knowledge and perspectives. We have discussions ranging from the feminization of poverty to the recent Student Representative Council elections on campus to racism in South Africa. Someone posts on the class Facebook page almost daily. Read more
As students begin to arrive into their respective Interstudy programs across South Africa they will be exposed to some realities of the country that are foreign to us in the first world. Likely the most ‘in your face’ difference will be the obvious separation of wealth through the observation township living. Townships often refer to the underdeveloped urban living areas that were reserved for non-whites during the Apartheid era, mostly built on the outskirts of towns and cities. This dynamic has not changed much since the end of Apartheid, still housing a majority of non-white citizens of South Africa.
Only the affluent folks around here drive the b’mers and fancy cars, or take the 20 Rand per trip transportation on the newly launched Gautrain and bus. The new trains and buses are luxurious but still very limited in its service routes and time schedules. These modes of transportation are not feasible for the majority of South Africans, who use the cheaper taxis (usually an old minibus packed to capacity), or they wait for Metrobuses that may or may not arrive depending on the strike situation in town, or they walk very, very long distances or they stay at home…in township (informal settlement) Neverland, far, far away. Read more
I thought I would devote a bit to the seemingly random activities I end up involved in here in Cape Town…what would life be like without the usual (very usual, in my case) randomness, hey? The thing I’ve realized since I’ve been here is that South African life, in all it’s wonder, excitement, and seemingly primitive nature at times, it is surprisingly familiar. As the mystery has worn off, the sense of home emerges. This is no longer a vacation; it is a lifestyle (perhaps a luxurious lifestyle, but yet I will count it as such). And what would “life” be like without the usual patterns and the moments that, although seem silly, make all the difference. When I leave South Africa, it’s not the beaches and shopping and sights that I will miss most; it is the life, my life. Here is a sneak peak into my “normal” life. Read more
Today is Human Rights Day in South Africa. On this day, 51 years ago, 69 people were killed when police opened fire on a demonstration in Sharpeville, a township not far from Johannesburg. It was this event that motivated the start of an armed resistance in South Africa as well as world condemnation of the policies established during Apartheid. Read more
Many students who study in South Africa go there with the intention of volunteering in some capacity. Whether it’s at a local orphanage, or a clinic in a neighboring township, the opportunities in almost all of interstudy’s program locations are plentiful. Many times universities have clubs or student run organizations that have established lasting relationships with local areas in need, and it is this sustainable, or continuous aid which is most helpful. While studying at Rhodes University, 4 of our interstudy alums made a big impact, and ended up leaving a lasting mark not only on a local community outside of Grahamstown, South Africa, but also in a grocery store near you. Read more