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South Africa: Winter Term 06
21 students traveled to Cape Town, South Africa this January to explore issues of service and justice for their Winter Term.
The class visited Robben Island, the site where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. Students were given a tour by a former prisoner, a man imprisoned for attending a peaceful ANC protest when he was 16 years old. The group also visited the District Six Museum and visited the actual site of District Six, a former ethnic area that was razed when it was named a "white" neighborhood during the years of apartheid.
The class also enjoyed a visit from Mary Burton, a former member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that was set up post-apartheid and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The TRC granted amnesty to any person who fully confessed their political crimes during the time of apartheid. Additionally, the group received a briefing from the US Consulate and visited the Zwane Uniting Center in the Guguletu Township where they got a tour of their work and enjoyed a performance by a group that does presentations on HIV/AIDS in the townships. The Rev. Dr. Xapile Spiwo visited with the group while at the Zwane Center to talk about race relations in South Africa and the necessity for reconciliation.
The most significant portion of the trip was the time that students spent working with the Amy Biehl Foundation (www.amybiehl.org). This organization, named after a young American white woman who was killed by a black mob during the later years of apartheid, does AIDS and education work in Cape Town's poor townships. One of the men who killed Amy Biehl now works for the Foundation and served as a guide for the Eckerd students.
The class was split into three groups. One group did environmental education at a Xhosa school in the Nyagna Township. Another group did physical education at a "colored" (the South African term for a person of mixed race) school in the Crossroads Township. The third group taught and tutored English at a Catholic Xhosa school in Nyagna.
When not involved with this work, the class had the chance to see some of the great sites of the Western Cape including Table Mountain, Simonstown, a tour of the Garden Route and a wine tasting at Stellenbosch. There was plenty of time to visit the great sites of Cape Town such as the Waterfront, Scrumpy Jacks, Kristenbosch Botanical Gardens, and a visit to the Maynardville Open Air Theatre for a performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
The group was in Africa from January 3rd through January 28th. Students had nightly class meeting to discuss the day's events or readings and kept a journal in addition to writing a paper on the meaning of reconciliation.