Posted on August 14, 2014

Fourteen students from Georgetown University - Qatar’s (GU-Q) Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace (ZCZP) program took advantage of their summer vacation and visited South Africa, stopping in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town to explore the issue of post-apartheid reconciliation in depth. Over the course of 10 days, students learned how the country continues to work to overcome the system of racial segregation that was legal in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Thirteen students from GU-Q were joined by one Main Campus Masters in Conflict Resolution student, Ellie Jorgensen.

Previous ZCZP programs have visited Poland/Germany, Northern Ireland and Rwanda among others to study the impact of conflicts in those countries. This year’s trip to South Africa ran from June 12 to June 21, and was designed to help students understand the challenges that South Africans face today, including extreme economic inequality and debates over immigration and crime. Students visited museums and cultural districts such as the Apartheid Museum, the former Sophiatown area of Johannesburg, the township of Soweto, and the District 6 Museum in Cape Town, to name a few. Students additionally participated in several community initiatives with children including an in-depth walking experience in Cape Town’s first township, Langa, and an afternoon spent with the Kliptown Youth Project in Soweto.

The program in South Africa included stopovers at two universities: the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg and the University of the Western Cape outside of Cape Town where students met with students and professors to learn about today’s economic and social realities.  One of the professors in conversation with the ZCZP student group referred to South Africa as a ‘teenager’ who is still learning and struggling to find his feet while brimming with hope for a future that would be buoyed by the new generation.

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Director of Student Programs Kathryn King noted, “During our time in South Africa this June, students were able to get past clichés and stereotypes about the country and gain knowledge from talking to people on the ground, from academics to leaders of NGOs to community workers to children. I think the experience helped open their eyes to the complexities of working in post-conflict situations and hopefully inspired them to continue learning about conflict resolution in order to work for a more equitable world."

Zones of Conflict, Zones of Peace is a co-curricular program open to any student who completes the application and meets the requirements of attending weekly non-credit classes and completing all required readings and blog posts. The course focuses on conflict management and conflict resolution as well as the specifics of the particular conflict. Accordingly, the program offers students the unique opportunity to study current events as well as to apply the critical thinking skills they learn in the classroom to a situation in the field.

GU-Q student Jyotsna Subramaniam, said: “The ZCZP trip was an eye opener in many ways. This was my first visit as a GU-Q student. There is a big difference between what you read in books about apartheid and what we actually experienced in the heart of South Africa. This trip led me to seek answers to questions such as – ‘What is the problem and how can it be resolved?’ It was also interesting to see how sport is used as a tool in South Africa to create reconciliation and bring people together.”

The South Africa ZCZP students will be sharing poster presentations on specific themes to an audience that comprises faculty, students and staff in early September. The occasion regularly draws a lot of interest from the Georgetown community. 

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