The time I spent in Cape Town was one of the most enlightening and character building experiences of my life. During the two weeks my group spent in Cape Town, we worked with a partner organisation called ILRIG (International Labour Research and Information Group). ILRIG are an anti-austerity, anti-neoliberalism, anti-globalisation activist organisation that seeks, primarily, to combat what they regard to be the state-initiated alienation, marginalisation and subjugation of the working classes. Our work entailed interviewing activists associated with ILRIG about the impact national budget cuts have had at a local level, and what work those activists were doing to combat budget cuts.
I learned a lot while carrying out this work, including lessons relating to the structure of the interviews themselves. For example, the group discovered that certain questions were beginning to yield entirely predictable results; in particular questions relating to activists’ attitudes to the state. Therefore we did not need to ask the question in every interview.
Just as important were the lessons I learned regarding general safety and the upkeep of personal relationships with my coursemates. Many of us had not been in such a challenging situation before; it was imperative that we showed each other the utmost respect and compassion, especially in moments of disagreement, to ease things along for the whole group. I also thoroughly enjoyed the degree of independence and responsibility that we had when in South Africa. Negotiating my way round these challenges undoubtedly aided my development, not just as an academic, but also as a person.
I would wholeheartedly recommend that Applied Human Rights students seize the opportunity to go to South Africa. The stunning beauty of Cape Town’s scenery is starkly juxtaposed against the city’s political context. Both are sure to enlighten and engage students who take advantage of all that this placement has to offer.