Students Visit a Legendary Activist’s Prison Cell in South Africa
Sarah DeCamp,Associate Director of Public Relations
LIU Global students at the South Africa Center visited the jail cell where South African politician and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison, on March 24. The South Africa program focuses on development issues in national and global contexts. Students take courses in African politics and development theories alongside other coursework on Zulu language and culture. In South Africa, apartheid cruelties remain very present in both politics and culture. Witnessing Mandela's cell allowed students to experience the realities of being an activist and political prisoner, and to develop a deeper understanding of how South Africans understand their own history.
Students took a boat ride to Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa, to see the prison cell, and also met with Jama Mbatyoti, a former inmate who had been imprisoned for his role in leading the high school riot in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1977. The Port Elizabeth high school riots were an offshoot of the famous Soweto riots in which teens protested school fees, as well as a law that forced schools to teach in English and Afrikaans, not Zulu or Xhosa. Apartheid police forces fired into the crowd; hundreds of teens were killed. The students involved in the Soweto and Port Elizabeth riots went on to be important freedom fighters in the African National Congress. Students also visited the quarry where Mandela and other political prisoners were forced to work.
“We’ve learned so much in class about Nelson Mandela and the Apartheid era in South Africa, so it was very important for us to visit the prison and see firsthand what it must have been like for activists all those years,” said LIU Global student Hope Harvey.
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