Today we packed in two major learning opportunities.
First we visited the University of Cape Town. Our major topic was higher education in South Africa and how students from R/K-12 transition into. First I was surprised to learn that everything seems settled in 10th grade. You have to make decisions on what you want to do in higher education and plan accordingly. Bacholors degrees are really a three year program in SA and are dependent on what you did the last couple of in high school if you didn't take hhttp://www.robben-island.org.za/eavy math, you are not going to be able to major in math. The other thing I was surprised to see is there really is no articulation partnerships. You can forget transferring credits from one university to another.
My main curiosity is what are universities doing after apartheid to afford opportunities to all students?
For the University of Cape Town, the answer given was CHED http://www.ched.uct.ac.za/about/overview/
We met with Suellen Shay, Dean of Higher Education Development. She gave us candid valuable in site to what her university was doing to to help. They have implemented a number of programs. The three that I felt were the most intriguing were: A first year assistance program, extended time (program of studies that was geared for four years instead of three), and a program that took the brightest from 20 township schools and achieved a 80% acceptance rate. I did seem to see a student body that seemed to reflect a significant amount of diversity. (The University of Cape Town was a white institution before the end of apartheid.)
After our visit at the university we went to Robben Island. http://www.robben-island.org.za/
This was a prison where many proclaimed political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned.
One of the most fascinating details to me was how many prisoners worked on their education in prison and even received degrees from higher institutions of learning while being there.
It was not what I expected. In many ways. The theme was not...look what bad things happened here, but let's celebrate unity and the triumph of human spirit. It may take some time for me to really figure out how I felt about the visit.