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Program Locations

Cape Town

Service-Learning Through Community Partnerships

The Cape Town program expects all students to engage in service-learning and to take the related, reflection seminar, OSPCPTWN 032: Learning, Development and Social Change: Service-Learning in the South African Context. 


Service-learning placements are arranged through ongoing partnerships with organizations in the Cape Town and Western Cape region.  The purpose of these partnerships is to support service-learning but also to ensure that the Stanford centre is located with and connected to the local community. We have worked hard to develop these partnerships based on principles of reciprocity and mutual learning, and they form a core value of our practice.  When we place students, we emphasize that the service a student is required to do is not so much a learning project linked to a specific course as it is a response to the organization’s request for assistance. These requests include administrative tasks, data collection, educational tutoring and mentoring, community mobilizing, marketing, fund raising and report writing. While we try to place students in a sector that they are interested in, e.g. health, education, small business development, youth, the environment, or adult literacy, much of the learning the students acquire is often less about that sector and more about themselves and the politics and ethics of service in the South African context.


This partnership approach also means that we encourage students to do their service-learning through one of the partner organizations rather than through any other organization they might be interested in. This is not done to minimize the importance of and limit students’ interests. Rather, it is our belief that working with organizations in this way, i.e. with focus on the partnership rather than exclusively on students’ interests, is ethical practice and the most sustainable way to go, especially in the South African context. The organizations with which we partner include NGOs, CBOs, neighborhood civic organizations, etc., spread across a wide range of sectors to cater for most student interests. Given the vulnerability of the development/social sector in South Africa, we must work with organizations and communities in a manner that respects their context and the huge challenges they face. We reinforce this approach in our teaching. Students’ and partner responses to this principled approach have been overwhelmingly positive.

For more information contact Janice McMillan, Service-Learning Coordinator,

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