South Africa in one of the most popular service learning countries in the world. Its amazing natural beauty, wildlife and diverse cultures make it a amazing study abroad destination. The history of South Africa is largely one of racial divisiveness. While today, it is celebrated as a journey through massive obstacles towards the creation of a single, diverse and unified nation, years of economic deprivation has left a dramatic divide.
Under the policy of apartheid, non-white populations were disenfranchised; with rights, associations, movements and access to basic services largely restricted. Decades of social and civil crisis crippled South Africa.
Twenty years after Nelson Mandela led the nation into democracy, South Africa is celebrated as country of diversity, inclusion and opportunity. The country now welcomes over 12 million tourists a year, has a democratic parliament, 42% of which is made up of women, and is home to 11 Nobel Prize laureates.
While the end of apartheid did open a door to equal opportunity for all, today, South Africa still struggles with stark inequalities. Despite having one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, almost a third of the country is unemployed, and it has the world’s highest gini coefficient. Employment, education, income equality and life-expectancy have worsened, and race still largely divides the country in a socio-economic respect.
Between 1960 and 1983, almost 4 million non-white South Africans were forcibly removed from their homes into segregated neighborhoods called townships or locations outside of city centers. Here, almost a quarter of the population was forced to endure cramped and rudimentary housing with little or no access to services such as running water or electricity. Today, little has changed, and millions continue to live in these conditions mere kilometers from bustling metropolitan cities.
It is in this context that we work and undertake studies South Africa. Many of the subject matters are inextricably tied together, and in combination, aim to break the the ongoing cycle of poverty. Poverty is more than a lack of income and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood. Poverty is found at the root of poor education, crime – particularly amongst youth, early development challenges, particularly amongst those with disabilities, gender inequality and a lack of concern for animals and the environment.