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First Summer session of Global Health Issues in South Africa wraps up

The first session of the 2017 Global Health Issues in South Africa summer undergraduate course has just wrapped up.  This was such an exciting, sometimes challenging, yet deeply rewarding time in various parts of South Africa.

The journey started in Johannesburg, which provided the historical context for experiences to come throughout the course.  The cold winter nights in Johannesburg were happily traded for warmer days in HaMakuya, in the Limpopo province a few kilometers south of Zimbabwe. In HaMakuya students quickly transitioned from urban life to tented camps with limited electricity, no cell phone signal, and no internet!

While in HaMakuya, students stayed at the Tshulu Trust’s camp located in the former Venda homeland (or Bantustan). Tsuhlu rust is Tan eco-development project, which has a longstanding relationship with OTS Programs. In addition to hosting educational groups and facilitating homestays, the Trust has built an educational center in the middle of the chieftaincy that provides a library, computer training, and winter schools for the community.

Class discussions focused on ethics in research and medical practice, case studies related to ethics, water quality, and cancer on the continent.  Additionally, students and faculty discussed focused structural violence, zoonotic infections, medical pluralism, and social determinations of health.

One of the highlights for the students during the stay in HaMakuya was the homestay.  Over three days, students immersed themselves in a rural Venda homestead experiencing the daily life with a Venda family by cooking, eating, and sleeping in rondavels, helping with household chores such as fetching water and carrying wood (on their heads).  These days were a unique opportunity to get in touch with the host family, exchange ideas and learn about other cultures.

Students gained exceptional first-hand insight into the processes of the communities – learning through experience.  In groups of four, they planned and designed health-related research proposals on various topics including: access to water, medical pluralism, access to health care, and health-seeking behavior among others.  

After HaMakuya, the course traveled to Wits Rural Facility (WRF) located in Bushbuckridge.  The facility is a field research station of the University of Witwatersrand (and OTS Member Institution).  The students explored topics such as medical pluralism and the integration of traditional healers, and the knowledge into healthcare, research methods, and social determinants of health.  Topics discussed were primary health care, long-term health demographics surveys, the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural livelihoods in the area, as well as introducing the students to the multiple and varied ways in which people of the region engage with health and health care. Further, students spent a day exploring the work of community health workers.

The last site for the course was Skukuza, a small village within the Kruger National Park; which is home of OTS South Africa.  The students presented their preliminary research and debated their findings.  In between writing up their deliverables, students enjoyed game drives and walks, visited hospitals, and received lectures from various doctors and researchers. 

It is hard to believe that a whole month has gone by with all the experiences shared by the staff and students.  This journey has been filled with nothing but joy, learning about life in remote areas of South Africa and sharing many memorable moments.

Last Updated ( 07/12/17 )
 
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