BPD Update Online, Winter 2004
Into Africa: Highlights of BPD's 2nd International Conference
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Into Africa
Into Africa (cont)
Into Africa (cont)
I Am Not in Kansas Anymore
American-Israeli Online Exchange
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BPD Summer 2004 Policy Fellow Award
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Archives: 2003 - 2004
Archives: 2001 - 2002

by David V. Henton

Texas State University, San Marcos

With our colleagues Huggenot College,
University of Capetown, University of Stellenbosch, and His Worship, the Mayor

On July 13th, six members of BPD, along with five friends and family members, departed New York's JFK airport for Southern Africa and BPD's 2nd International Conference. Joining tour organizer Dr. Esther Jones Langston of UNLV were BPD members Dr. Marquessa Brown of Gallaudet University, Dr. Janice Burton of University of the District of Columbia, Dr. Dorothy Graff of Prairie View A&M (Texas), Dave Henton of Texas State- San Marcos, and Marcia Runnberg, College of Saint Scholastica. Fifteen days, two countries, four cities, three National Parks, many agencies, colleagues and academic institutions, and 25,000 air miles later, we returned to the U.S. with new ideas, insights, experiences and memories.

Following the 20 hour journey from New York to Capetown via Johannesburg, the exhausted but excited BPDers checked into the famed Table Bay Hotel, Capetown's 'home away from home' for such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Sting, and Richard Branson. From the Table Bay, we were treated to magnificent views of the city, harbor, and Table Mountain in one direction, and Robben Island and the South Atlantic Ocean in the other. Both sunrises and sunsets were spectacular!

A Trip to the Country

On July 15th, our first full-day in South Africa, we traveled through the wine lands of the Cape region to the town of Wellington and Huggenot College for our first meeting with South African colleagues in social work education. Following a welcome from the Mayor, we met with colleagues from Huggenot College, the University of Stellenbosch, and the University of Capetown. After formal presentations on social work curricula at each institution and social work education in South Africa, we enjoyed a lively dialogue about a variety of professional topics including field instruction, opportunities for international exchange and scholarship, and social welfare problems and issues.

From the college, we then journeyed to two field sites where Huggenot social work students are completing their internships under the direction of Huggenot faculty member Franciska Jacobs. The first of these was a day program for homeless children originally begun by Dr. Lambert Engelbrecht, one of our faculty colleagues now at the University of Stellenbosch. We next visited a rural school for the children of farm workers in the Winelands region. Although school had not yet resumed from winter break, we were able to meet with the Principal and a cohort of Huggenot social work interns. Many of the problems facing their clients are familiar to American social workers- poverty, inadequate opportunity, economic exploitation, substandard housing, and inequalities in educational opportunity. Additionally, multi-generational substance abuse, the legacy of a farm labor system in which workers were historically paid in alcohol, exacerbates such problems as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other alcohol-related disabilities and family violence.

The Town that Disappeared

Huggenot Social Work interns at the rural school where they are completing their practicum

The following day began with a tour of District Six, the once-vibrant heart of Capetown's mixed-race 'Cape Malay' community. Under the apartheid-era Separate Areas Act, District Six residents were relocated from the heart of Capetown to a new 'coloured' community on the windswept Cape Flats miles away from their homes and community. Their homes, businesses and places of worship were then razed in preparation for a new, whites-only development. However, although District Six was completely destroyed, the land was never redeveloped as planned: A series of South African and international developers failed to redevelop District Six, fearing backlash over the outrage of the community's destruction. Eventually, the government built Capetown Technikon, a large modern technical college in the heart of what was once District Six. However, the Technikon is surrounded today by vacant land- a stark reminder of the destructive fury and insanity of apartheid. Among the only surviving structures of District Six are two churches and a mosque, moral relics of a community that forbade their destruction. Our visit to District Six was made even more poignant by the fact that our guide, Brian Smith, had grown up in the community and experienced first-hand his family's forced relocation to the desolate Cape Flats. A highlight of the tour through District Six was a visit to the District Six museum, where the memory of this vibrant community is maintained. One of the most dramatic displays is a tall tower of street signs secretly hidden by demolition crews directed to destroy all evidence of the former community ever having existed.

After District Six, we visited the Black townships of Guguletu and Khayelitsha. Although racial segregation is prohibited by law and the South African constitution prohibits discrimination, South Africa remains very much 'a land with a first world face and a third world body'. People who live in townships like Guguletu and Khayelitsha may be free to relocate; however, with massive unemployment and limited economic opportunities, many are trapped in poverty and substandard housing. In less than ten years' time, the ANC government has succeeded in building several million small homes in communities like Guguletu. Progress is also being made in the development of water, wastewater, and electric service in both townships and informal settlements. But the task is Herculean in nature, and the legacy of apartheid and its accompanying systematic retardation of development will continue for years to come.

This article on Africa continues on the next page...

Spiral, Horizontal Line Spinning

BPD Update Online, Volume 26, No. 1, Winter 2004

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