Research and Action in the New South Africa is a study abroad programme for African American and African Studies (AAAS) and other Michigan State University (MSU) graduates as well as undergraduate students. Through AAAS’ strategic partnership with Unisa, the programme provides an international service-learning and research-intensive course as well as an internship experience for students.
Academically, post-apartheid South Africa provides a dynamic site for examining the intersections of race, identity and historical legacies that inform the country’s current political, cultural and economic transformations.
This initiative was started by Prof Sekepe Matjila in 2011 after visiting Michigan University in 2009 as a presidential scholar. Prof Matjila gave lectures to students on African Epistemology during his six-month stay in Michigan, which impressed The Director of the School of African Studies at Michigan, Dr Kiki Edozie. “Dr Edozie and I agreed that it would be vital for graduate students to visit South Africa every year to do research. I thought that it would important for students to visit Unisa because it is the biggest university in the continent and has students all over the world,” said Prof Matjila.
Under the supervision of Prof Matjila, the Department of African Languages hosted four students from Michigan State University. The students were invited to experience South Africa and Unisa with a number of objectives in mind:
- To provide opportunities for AAAS graduate students to fulfil AAAS internship course requirements in South Africa;
- For AAAS graduate students and other MSU graduate students to engage in study abroad experiential learning in Pretoria and Johannesburg;
- For AAAS graduate students and other MSU graduate students to conduct international field research and community service and outreach in Pretoria and Johannesburg;
- For graduate students to explore academic and research theme-based knowledge production on Pan-African languages and cultures and community development in post-apartheid South Africa; and
- For advanced undergraduate AAAS specialisation and other MSU undergraduate students to conduct a three-week on-site study abroad experience on topics of comparative US/South Africa race, identity and languages.
During their three-week stay in the country, the students had the opportunity to visit Mapungubwe. Mapungubwe is situated at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers at the border of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. This is where the first civilisations in Southern Africa occurred more than one thousand years ago. They will also visit the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus, historically disadvantaged schools, cultural villages, memorial sites and museums.
“Amongst other activities, the students have responsibilities to conduct research assistance on South African languages and cultures, to arrange and facilitate undergraduate student workshops, organise community outreach activities and to assist in documentation and archiving of museum language and culture materials, texts and artefacts,” said Prof Matjila.
By Mercy Bvuma