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South Africa

Togetherness: Viewing Service-learning in post-apartheid South Africa through the lenses of transitional justice, Ubuntu, healing and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa

Click here to view the summer 2017 South Africa Program itinerary

Credit-bearing opportunities to learn more about South Africa:

PSCI 3897: Transitional Justice and Human Rights

PSCI 3894: Transitional to Democracy in South Africa

2014 South Africa Cohort

2014 South Africa Cohort at Cape Point.

Quick Facts:

What/Where:  Service-Learning program to South Africa – click to view the 2018 program itinerary

When: This year, the South Africa program will run two times, back-to-back. Students should indicate on the application which dates are preferred.

  • May 16th – June 28th
  • June 29th – August 11th

Who:  All Vanderbilt Students. Click here to read blog entries from the 2017 cohort

How much: $5,400 + flight

Project Leader: Dr. Clive Mentzel

Application requirements:

  • Online application
  • Resume
  • Financial aid form, including FAFSA (if applying for financial aid)

Partners: Kurios Trend & Missionvale Care Centre

Click on the links below to view YouTube Videos from previous years:

OACS SA Video: Sister Ethel

OACS SA Video: Beneficiary of English Classes

OACS SA Video: Student Voice 1

OACS SA Video: Student Voice 2 

OACS SA Video: Student Voice 3

OACS Global Projects Financial Aid Form 2018 of the OACS Financial Aid Application. This form should be completed and submitted along with your FAFSA when you apply for the program. Please note that all students applying for financial aid assistance through OACS must also apply for aid through the Nichols Humanitarian Fund. Nichols applications are due November 15th.


2018 Seminar Schedule (Subject to Change) 

January 13th-15th MLK Weekend
Seminar I January 31st at 5:00: OACS Lounge
Seminar II February 14th at 5:00:  OACS Lounge
*OACS Team Seminar February 21st at 5:00: Buttrick 102
Seminar III March 21st at 5:00: OACS Lounge
*OACS Team Seminar April 4th at 5:00: Buttrick 102
Seminar IV: Pre-Immersion Reflection and Logistics April 18th at 5:00: OACS Lounge
*OACS Team Seminar April 25th at 5:00: Buttrick 102

Click here to apply!

Project Background:

Led by the Director of OACS and affiliated faculty member in the Departments of Political Science and Medicine, Health and Society and Africa at A Crossroads, Dr. Clive Mentzel (a native South African), the service project in South Africa is aimed at understanding the systemic injustices deeply entrenched within society post the racist and oligarchic apartheid dictatorship that existed in the country until 1994.  Despite democratization and the dismantling of apartheid in 1994, the legacy of its brutal political oppression continues to afflict South Africans, and millions still suffer the ramifications of the brutal and oppressive past. These include, but are not limited to, desperate poverty, little or no access to basic services such as water and sewage systems, lack of access to basic health services, and inadequate educational opportunities. The overall intent of the South Africa Project is, within the context of a faculty-led and mindful and reflective experience, to provide a dynamic opportunity for Vanderbilt students to engage in meaningful service in some of the most marginalized areas of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  For some students this is also a powerful and immersive way to understand what it means to be a society in transition, as South Africa’s transition away from its apartheid past is unique and insightful for those wishing to understand, through the lens of service, the nature of the transitional experience first-hand.

Project Detail:

The project takes place summer 2018.  There are three phases to the project.  Phase 1 is the preparatory Phase, Phase 2 is the immersive experience itself, and Phase 3 involves student support provided by OACS staff post the immersive experience. For a visual representation of this pedagogical approach, click here.

Phase 1:  Preparing for the experience:

The project starts with a series of preparatory seminars in the Spring semester, all of which collectively ensure that students are well-prepared for the immersive experience lying ahead.  A more detailed program can be found here (uploaded shortly); what follows is a summary.

Alternatively, if you want a comprehensive and in-depth preparatory experience, you can take Dr. Mentzel’s class, The Transition to Democracy in South Africa.  This is recommended for students who want a comprehensive understanding of apartheid, its abolition and post-apartheid reconstruction and reconcilitation, including a detailed look at the truth and reconciliation commission.  For students interested in conflict resolution, you can take Dr. Mentzel’s class on transitional justice and conflict resolution in the fall.

Seminar I: MLK Weekend of Service

Group Service: All-cohort service activity during the MLK Weekend of Service on January 13th.

Seminar II: Political/Social/Economic Context of South Africa – a lecture, discussion and reflection session led by Dr. Clive Mentzel

Seminar III: International Development and Service-Learning – a guest lecture by Vanderbilt Faculty yet to be determined.

Seminar IV: Setting Expectations for the Service Experience – led by Dr. Clive Mentzel

Students who have participated in this project previously, available students will return to give advice and reflect on their experience last year. They will answer logistical and practical questions as well as the more nuanced experience students can expect to have, especially as it relates to US student experience in an international community with values and norms that may be different than here in Nashville and at Vanderbilt.

Seminar V: South Africa: Current Day Context – lecture and discussion led by Dr. Clive Mentzel

Seminar VI: Power and Privilege – led by colleagues in the IICC Department.

The aim of this session is to facilitate a discussion and activity around power relations in the context of international service learning. Students will reflect on their own identity and how their lived experience will impact their experience in both how they are received by others and their own personal experience.

Seminar VII: Risk Management – led by colleagues in risk management.

All cohorts travelling internationally undergo risk management training by OACS staff.  This session includes final Procedures/Itinerary Review and site Leaders review any final country-specific information related to policy, procedures, itineraries, or risk management.

This is followed by a Teambuilding and Cookout/Party: Final teambuilding exercise with all cohorts followed by a cookout to see everyone off!

Phase 2:  The Experience itself:

Details announced shortly.

Phase 3: Individual, post-experience planning.

This is different for each student, conducted on a 1:1 basis and involves the student preparing a plan to enable them to translate the experience into their academic pursuits and interests, their activity on campus, and possibly also their career path.

A prior year’s itinerary for the project, giving you a clear sense of what happens when and where (as always though subject to change) can be found here: SA Itinerary.

Why participate?

OACS Service Programs challenge students to question their perspectives and roles in the shared human experience through pre-service curriculum, intensive service, post-service skills application, and continuous reflection. The programs are prudently planned in order to best facilitate students’ abilities to connect meaningfully with people different from themselves through humble engagement and reciprocal dialogues within host communities. Through this exposure to firsthand knowledge and lived experiences, students will examine the deeper issues related to equity and justice and identify systematic barriers to equality and inclusivity. Students with a sincere desire to grapple with the complexity of human connectedness, to challenge their known values, and to reconcile academic knowledge with an authentic exploration of social and environmental injustices are encouraged to apply for an OACS Service Program.

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