Fifteen students from nine universities in the United States are participating in this years’ Fulbright-Hays Zulu Group Project Abroad Program.
The Program is directed by the University of Pennsylvania, with funding from the US Department of Education. Participating universities include the University of Illinois, Columbia University, Brandeis University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Boston University, UCLA, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The eight week programme which is designed to give US students an opportunity to advance their competency in isiZulu and to learn more about Zulu culture, runs from 12 June-9 August on the Pietermaritzburg campus. The group consists of eight PhDs, three Masters and four Bachelor of Arts students.
Dr Audrey Mbeje, Project Director from the University of Pennsylvania said: “It is part of the students’ curriculum to learn a foreign language. This aspect of their study is significant because they engage with local communities. Some of them will be working here in South Africa and … it’s important that they understand the indigenous language and the culture of African people.”
The Program includes classroom instruction, and home stays in urban and rural settings. The students present short research papers and write examinations.
Each student has been allocated to a family in Mbali Township in Pietermaritzburg where they will spend a week with that community. The students will then visit Emaqongqo, a rural area in KwaZulu-Natal, for two weeks.
Mr Nelson Ntsangase of the School of isiZulu Studies on the Pietermaritzburg campus said: “It is pleasing to teach the students because they take back the knowledge to their own countries.”
Mr Napolitano Joseph, a PhD student from New York University, who is in his third year of isiZulu Studies, believes that a broader understanding of African culture contributes towards understanding the way of life of African people.
“Reading books … is not enough … when you live with people you acquire better knowledge of the customs and culture and your language improves as well.”