In an impressive demonstration of academic excellence and cross-Commonwealth collaboration, 40 students from 28 ACU member universities in 18 countries delved deep into the history of South Africa at Stellenbosch University.
The week-long programme for this year’s ACU Summer School explored the complexities of the apartheid era and its legacy, with the theme: “Truth and reconciliation: from apartheid to transitional justice”. Beyond the classroom walls, students were immersed in South African culture and visited places such as the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation Exhibition to gain a deeper understanding of transitional justice.
The ACU Summer School is more than a study programme. With its commitment to facilitating cross-cultural dialogue, the Summer School provides a chance for students to broaden their perspectives and build lifelong relationships with their peers from around the Commonwealth.
Students hit the ground running. They attended lectures, and contributed to thought-provoking discussion on South Africa's history and the societal impact of apartheid. The conversation was led by academics from Stellenbosch University and two visiting academics from the University of Cape Town, also an ACU member. Our guest lecturers were Professor Helen Scanlon, convenor of the Justice and Transformation Programme; and Dr Glenda Cox, who holds the UNESCO Chair in Open Education and Social Justice.
Students also had the chance to experience South Africa’s culture and nature, with trips to the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve, a local wine farm in Stellenbosch, and more.
The Summer School had a transformative effect on the students, which was evident in the final reflections shared at the end of the week. Students demonstrated what they had learnt and how thoroughly they had interrogated the topic. They displayed a strong drive to use the knowledge, skills and network, built at the Summer School, to address social justice issues in their own countries and contexts.
Arinze Ajogwu, a student from Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, said: “As I reflect on memories created and ideas shared, I am excited about the positive change these engagements will bring to our countries and local communities in the future.”
The ACU Summer School ties in with Stellenbosch University's core strategic priorities of creating transformative student experiences, and fostering collaboration through purposeful partnerships and inclusive networks.
Werner de Wit, Manager of Short Programmes at SU's Centre for Global Engagement, said: "Now that we have hosted this diverse group of participants from all over the Commonwealth at Stellenbosch, some of them will hopefully return. Perhaps they will conduct postgraduate research here, or tell others about us."
By bringing together motivated students from different parts of the Commonwealth, the ACU Summer School promotes intercultural understanding, empathy, and the desire to work towards a more inclusive future for all.
As the students said farewell to Stellenbosch, they took with them a commitment to using their experience and knowledge to make a positive impact in their own communities, and beyond.