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My Fulbright Story

My Fulbright Story

By: Mari Dias

Figure 1: Some 3rd year social work students at Unizulu in session with Dr. Dias ( back center with Social Work Faculty member Teresa

 

The year 2013 includes my 61st birthday,my 35th anniversary as a teacher, consultant and counselor and several accolades and awards. In my lifetime, I have traveled throughout Europe, worked as a social activist for the marginalized and disenfranchised populations in Rhode Island, produced a documentary, presented my work at many a national conference, and integrated these experiences into my classes through service learning; however, my life’s work pales in comparison to my visit to the University of Zululand in South Africa as a Fulbright Specialist.

Family and friends subtly suggested that perhaps I was too old to embark on this endeavor; I viewed it as my “swan song.” That is, until I arrived. The excitement and awe was palpable when I entered the Arts auditorium.  Students were so grateful for the opportunity to attend my workshop. As one student stated “ We are humbled that a white woman from America would travel half-way across the world to empower poor, black, female scholars at a rural university in a third world developing country in post-apartheid South Africa.”  Wow! They were humbled by my visit- I was humbled by their humility! Although I was there to provide subject content and skills, simply by virtue of my presence they were thankful, appreciative and engaging. Every one of these students had finished their final exams the week prior, but was asked to stay on campus for an additional week for my visit.  Despite the fact that they were homesick {having been away for 5 months} each was eager to make what I felt was a sacrifice, yet they viewed it as a privilege.

The University of Zululand is the only institution of higher education north of the Tugela River. According to South Africa’s National Plan for higher education, UNIZULU’s aim is to eradicate inequity and offers career-focused programs to study. UNIZULU was established in 1960 with 40 students- current enrollment is 15,000, with total tuition including room, board and meal plan is 30,000 Rand, or $3,000 American dollars.


The efforts of Unizulu and the Department of Social Work were evident: All of the students were well educated, knowledgeable and insightful. We bonded quickly- particularly through my attempts at pronouncing their Zulu names during the ice breakers! Although there was much laughter and camaraderie, I was as much in awe of their respect and interest in knowledge as they were of me. Our small group activities:” What would you do?” and the subsequent role-plays proved successful and provided an opportunity for teachable moments.

 

My sessions with the social work practicum supervisors were equally self-effacing.

Social workers from both governmental and non-governmental agencies attended. They represented the Correctional facilities, the Department of Social Development, Orphanages, Places of Safety for neglected and abused children, Hospitals, HIV/AIDs, and Substance Abuse Programs. They were curious about the state of social work and counseling in the United States, and fascinated to hear that the problems in the field in South Africa are similar to those in America.

South Africa is officially called the Republic of South Africa and is divided into 9 provinces. SA is a multi ethnic country with over 51 million people. It is estimated that 500,000 women are raped in SA every year (more than complete secondary school). child and baby rape are some of the highest in the world, as a result of the virgin cleansing myth. While is South Africa, I noticed a handwritten cardboard sign nailed to a street post that stated “I have raped and beat the crisis.” This myth is the erroneous belief that if a man infected with HIV/AIDS has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured.
Another version of the myth promotes the belief that people with disabilities (blind, deaf, intellectually disabled, mental health disabilities and physical disabilities are virgins and therefore raping anyone who falls into these categories will cure AIDS. Kwazulu Natal, where the University is located, has the highest rate of HIV infection, at over 39%. This epidemic has disrupted society, with fatalities high among adults in their prime, leaving many AIDS orphans (personal interview).

 

My curiosity, adventurousness as well as my need to maximize my experience led me to visit many of the surrounding areas, including the rural area, the correctional facilities, and attendance at a Zulu place of worship. Everywhere I visited I was met with graciousness, respect and gratitude for my presence.
The year 2014 is fast approaching and I realized my visit was not my “swan song” but the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Ngyabonga to Fulbright and the University of Zululand for this opportunity. I look forward to returning. Saubona!

NOTE: For more specific details and pictures, please visit my blog at http://blogs.jwu.edu/facultyblogs.

Jul 3

Fulbright Project Pupose

This project will assist in a successful national review in 2013 by the South African National Review by the Centre of Higher Education (CHE) for all undergraduate Social work programs, and assist UniZulu in achieving their mission of ” Responding to local,national and global demands for human capital development…and to equip students with knowledge, skills and understanding of the …pro-active and developmental approaches to the delivery of social services to disadvantaged individuals, groups and communities in accordance with the policy outlined in the SA White Paper for Social Welfare of 1997.”
My trip to the University of Zululand in Empangeni, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa was two-fold in purpose:
1. To ensure students’ effective execution and application of a variety of counseling techniques, theories and crisis intervention approaches through the development and facilitation of 3 half-day workshops with 180 third year social work students.
2. To improve the supervision skills of the practicum site supervisors who are responsible for the supervision and assessment of UniZulu’s social work students through the development and facilitation of 3 half-day workshops on “Designing an Assessment Rubric for rating social work practicum students”, and ” Techniques and Strategies of Supervision” and with 60 social work practicum supervisors. The groups include social work supervisors from Crime Prevention Services, Places of Safety, Correctional Services, Department of Social Development ( welfare, foster care), hospital and medical facilities . Social workers will garner CPDs for their attendance at the workshops.

Jul 3

Audio clip of church celebration - lyrics were translated for me in English!

Jul 3

Zwali speaking to America in Zulu

Jul 3

Audio clip recorded at church celebration in Zulu

Some background of South Africa

South Africa is officially called the Republic of South Africa and is divided into 9 provinces. SA is a multi ethnic country with over 51 million people. It is estimated that 500,000 women are raped in SA every year ( more than complete secondary school). child and baby rape are some of the highest in the world, as a result of the virgin cleansing myth. While is South Africa, I noticed a handwritten cardboard sign nailed to a street post that stated ” I have raped and beat the crisis.” This myth is the erroneous belief that if a man infected with HIV/AIDS has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured.
Another version of the myth promotes the belief that people with disabilities ( blind, deaf, intellectually disabled, mental health disabilities and physical disabilities are virgins and therefore raping anyone who falls into these categories will cure AIDS. Kwazulu Natal, where the University is located, has the highest rate of HIV infection, at over 39%. This epidemic has disrupted society, with fatalities high among adults in their prime, leaving many AIDS orphans.
The average urban income in Empangeni, Kwazulu Natal is 14,000 Rand, or $1400, with the average rural household income at approximately 2,500. Rand, or $250.00 American dollars.

History of University of Zululand

The University of Zululand is the only institution of higher education north of the Tugela River. According to South Africa’s National Plan for higher education UNIZULU ‘s aim is to eradicate inequity and offers a career-focused programs to study. UNIZULU was established in 1960 with 40 students- current enrollment is 15,000, with total tuition including room, board and.meal plan is 30,000 Rand, or $3,000 American dollars.

Some expressions…

Bakkie. Pick up truck
Kombi. VW minivan
Lekker. Nice, good
Robot. traffic lights
Serviettes napkins
Tackies. Sneakers
Yebo. Yes, I agree

Common Zulu words

Sorry ngiyaxolisa

Hello sawubona
 Sugar cane. Moba
Goodbye. salakahle

Geographical location of University of Zululand

University of Zululand, Empageni, Kwa-Zulu Natal

University of Zululand, Kwadlangezwa Campus. There is also a satellite campus in Richard’s Bayimage

Security Guard checking identificationimage

Entrance to Campus- two guard houses and 8 security guards