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Learning justice in post-apartheid South Africa – 2021

South Africa, Cape Town
Dates May 12 - July 6
Program Focus

Assisting Scalabrini, a social services agency seeking to improve the lives of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the City of Cape Town

Dates subject to change

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Human Rights
  • Migration
  • Race

Participants in the Cape Town program will have the option to live on campus during the majority of the program. Please note while DukeEngage will not pay for housing, students may use their award money to cover the cost.


Summer 2021 program will be virtual. But despite not being able to travel to Cape Town you will get to know South Africa generally and the City of Cape Town specifically. Our program will begin during Spring 2021 semester with informational and learning sessions. To better understand South Africa’s history of colonial settlement, apartheid, political struggle, and liberation, DukeEngage participants will be asked to participate in a short course during Summer 2021. The short course is NOT credit earning and should be understood as a cultural enrichment component of the overall DukeEngage program. It introduces students to the political history of South Africa via the country’s national literature, poetry, and film. Some portion of short course activities will be hosted (virtually) through the Rhofiwa Book Café based in Durham.

Alongside the short course, students will dedicate the duration of the program to working at Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town. The organization seeks to advocate for and improve the lives of foreign-born Capetonians with immigrant and refugee status. Focusing on creating a more just South Africa for immigrants, Scalabrini works to help integrate refugee and immigrant families into South Africa’s social, economic, and political system. In the course of their placements, students will have the opportunity to meet with South Africans (via Zoom) who were antiapartheid activists, union organizers, and legal advocates who fought the rigid system of apartheid. Confirmed guests will include: legal scholars who work with migrant and refugee communities and activists who advocate against institutionalized xenophobia.

Apartheid, established in 1948, operated to strip South Africans of color of full rights of citizenship and subjected a majority to racial, gender, and class discrimination. Organized struggle on the part of individuals and organizations including the African National Congress, Black Consciousness Movement, South African Students’ Organization, etc. would eventually force the state’s hand. In 1994 South Africa held its first democratic elections extending the franchise to Black South Africans. DukeEngage Cape Town affords students an opportunity to better understand this history and the many efforts to reshape South African society after almost 350 years of settler colonialism.

DukeEngage Cape Town began as an attempt to introduce Duke students to a society remarkably similar to the United States—one where race played a fundamental role in determining an individual’s fate, but also inspired a long-term political battle to eradicate the system of state violence and oppression. The civil rights movement in the US has been compared to the antiapartheid struggle, and while there are certainly parallels, given the historical time frame, political strategies, and repertoires of struggle, there are many differences too. The scale of struggle, for one, is important to keep in mind and easy comparison between South Africa’s civil war and civil rights in the United States requires careful consideration. In learning the history of South Africa and working with an organization dedicated to improving the society, students have an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the values and the conflicts that continue to shape the history of of both countries.


Partnership Opportunities (Virtual)

The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town works towards “the cultural, social and economic integration of migrants, refugees and South Africans into local society. Perceiving migration as an opportunity, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town is committed to alleviating poverty and promoting development in the Western Cape while fostering integration between migrants, refugees and South Africans.”

Immigration, migration, and asylum is both a global issue and a South African one. While the history of the US southern border reflects efforts to control the arrival of refugees and migrant workers from Central America. South Africa’s borders similarly reflect histories of efforts by refugees and migrants to cross into a country perceived to provide both economic opportunity and political stability. In working with Scalabrini, students will be afforded insight into the universal challenge of displaced peoples motivated by economic, political, and increasingly ecological need.

Students interning at Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town will support tutoring and curriculum development given Scalabrini’s need for interns able to assist adult clients with English language reading, writing, and comprehension, and digital literacy (including basic computer skills).

Keep in mind when applying that South Africa is six hours ahead of Eastern Time, and that some program commitments will be aligned accordingly.


Skills: Good writing and communication skills are required. Experience teaching or tutoring is a plus.

Personal Qualities: Students should be interested in teaching/tutoring. They need to be open to new experiences and to accommodating remote learning while still building a sense of community.