Pitzer in Southern Africa

The Pitzer in Southern Africa is a multi-country comparative studies program. Starting in Fall 2023, the program will focus on the Southern Africa region and be based in Botswana and South Africa. The program provides students with an opportunity to learn about the multiple ways governments, NGOs and local communities in the region choose to approach issues that are common across borders, such as the colonial legacy, development, race, power, human rights and reconciliation, big game conservation, ecology and tourism, health care, education, and poverty alleviation. Students live with host families, participate in community service projects, study local cultures and languages, and work with scholars and experts in each country. During the final month of the program, students will pick one topic to pursue in depth for an independent study project, culminating in a major paper.


Botswana (starting in Fall 2023)

One of Africa’s most politically and economically stable countries, Botswana is home to over 2 million people and 226,900 square miles of vast savannas, the Kalahari Desert, and world famous wildlife parks, including the Okavango Delta. Botswana’s citizens, most of whom live in the major cities, towns and villages along the eastern border, enjoy standards of education and economic well-being rivaled on the continent only by neighboring South Africa. Although Botswana shares many socio-cultural commonalities with the rest of the region, it is unique from a political and historical standpoint. It was never colonized and never had to fight a war of independence. As a result, Botswana has thrived, and students will witness first-hand how good governance and prudent natural resources management can have a positive effect on societal issues such as racism, poverty, and gender inequity.

South Africa
Since the overthrow of Apartheid and the historic 1994 election, the Rainbow Nation has tried to strike a balance between the expectations of the hitherto marginalized black population and those of the white minority. A vibrant democracy and progressive constitution have resulted in a socio-economic and political transformation that has ushered in a new era of prosperity for the non-white marginalized groups that were excluded by Apartheid policies. Nonetheless, after two decades of post-Apartheid efforts, the country still struggles with high unemployment and poverty rates, and with major challenges around issues of healthcare disparities, housing, and education. Students live with host families in Soweto, the center of anti-apartheid movement, which, in combination with a series of lectures, study trips and community service projects, allow students to begin to unpack the complex issues behind South Africa’s recent history and transformative agenda.

  • Academics

    Host Institutions

    The program has affiliations with the University of Johannesburg, as well as with a number of private and government organizations in each location.

    Anticipated course offerings for the Fall 2023 program
    Core Course: Continuity and Change in Southern Africa
    Intensive Language
    Independent Study Project
    Suggested Preparation
    Coursework in Southern Africa area studies or development studies.
    Students must be in good academic standing and have a 2.0 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale.
    Grades for this program will be recorded on a Pitzer College transcript and included in the Pitzer GPA. Students are required to participate fully in all program components and are not allowed to withdraw from individual courses. Students must take all courses for a letter grade.
    Program Dates
    Fall: Mid-August to mid-December
    Spring: Mid-January to late May/early June
    Full Year: Mid-August to late May/early June – contact the Office of Study Abroad for details

    The Core Course

    Core Course: Continuity and Change Southern Africa. The core course is designed to provide students with a broad overview of the region and each of the countries where the program operates. Major elements of the core course include the fieldbook, homestays, and study trips; these along with service learning projects and a series of lectures given by university faculty and specialists provide a comprehensive look into the history, politics, culture, religion, and important current issues, within which students are asked to place and analyze their personal experience. Through community engagement and rigorous academic study the course provides an opportunity for students to develop a comparative and regional perspective on important issues and topics covered in the course. Additionally, the course provides a focus on human development, with opportunities to learn how to understand, implement and evaluate effective community-based work in each location. For Pitzer students, this course will satisfy Pitzer’s Social Responsibility Praxis (SRX) requirement.

    The Fieldbook
    An important part of the core course is a series of writing assignments, known as the fieldbook, which ask students to integrate readings and lectures with the more experiential components of family stays, internships, and study trips to explore important issues from the host culture perspective and to deepen their cross cultural learning.

    Service Learning
    In order to gain firsthand experience with issues explored in the core course, students will work with a local or international organization in each country. A variety of opportunities are available, including, but not limited to work in a hospital or clinical setting, teaching in a government school, participating in an organization that advocates for human rights, working in wildlife conservation with a government agency or a non-profit organization.

    Intensive Language Study

    The program realizes the importance of learning the local language as a way to honor the host community, connect more deeply with locals, and open windows into the host culture. Students will study intensive Setswana during the first month of the program in Botswana. The course emphasizes proficiency in speaking and listening through a highly communicative, interactive language curriculum.

    Independent Study Project

    Students explore a topic of interest in depth. Capstone projects are guided by university scholars, local specialists, or program staff and may take the form of a research project, an apprenticeship, an internship with a school, clinic, government department, or non-government organization.

  • Study Trips

    To better understand important local and regional issues, students participate in a number of study trips while in each country. While locations may vary slightly from semester to semester, study trips have included Victoria Falls, Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta, and smaller villages to experience rural development and the cultural, linguistic and ecological diversity of the country. Students have also gone on a safari to to study approaches to wildlife conversation, environmental issues, and tourism. In South Africa, students explore Pretoria and Johannesburg, study race relations, reconciliation, and post-Apartheid South Africa through visits to Soweto, the Apartheid Museum, the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park, attend a rugby or soccer match (schedule permitting), and visit Krueger National Park and/or Madikwe Game Reserve to study contrasting styles of big game management.

  • Independent Study Projects

    Students explore a topic of interest through an independent study. Capstone projects are guided by local scholars, specialists, or program staff and may take the form of a research project (ethnographic research, environmental analysis, field ecology etc.), an apprenticeship (with an artist, craftsperson, dance troupe, theater group, etc.) or an internship (with an NGO, government office, school, etc.). For any of these projects, a significant analytical component in the form of a written report (and in some cases a film or other media studies format) provides the documentation of learning. This is the part of the program where students can often do something that counts towards their major that would be impossible to do on their home campus – often a great opportunity to begin work on a senior thesis.

    Independent Research Areas
    African History
    African Literature
    Development Studies
    Environmental Studies
    Gender Studies
    International Relations
    Political Studies
    Public Health
    Theater and Dance
    Traditional Arts
    Vulnerable Children and Orphans
    Wildlife Ecology

  • Family Stays

    Host families serve as important co-educators on the program, not only for language and culture learning, but also as a way to allow students to further explore ideas and issues that are presented in lectures and readings. Host families allow students to experience first-hand the concept and life of Ubuntu, an important cultural value of the region, embraced in local greetings that proclaim, “I am well if you are well,” and “my destiny is intricately intertwined with yours.” This idea was at the heart of the post-colonial reconciliation process of Zimbabwe that became a model for South Africa’s post-Apartheid government strategy and its celebrated Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Students have multiple extended family stays on the program:

    Botswana (more information to come)


    South Africa
    Students live with host families in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto, the heart of anti-Apartheid struggles in the 1960s. Soweto was and continues to be a hive of activity that presents an ideal location for learning about the anti-apartheid movement from those who participated in it, as well as the many post-Apartheid challenges facing South Africa.



  • Meet the Director

    Batsirai Chidzodzo
    Director, Southern Africa Program

    CL 10MA15 LB Batsirai Chidzodzo (4)
    Batsirai “Batsi” Chidzodzo

    Batsirai (“Batsi”) Chidzodzo received his BA from the University of Zimbabwe and an MBA from De Montfort University, where he was recognized for his thesis focusing on the flight of intellectual capital from Zimbabwe. He also holds a diploma in Personnel Management from the Institute of Personnel Management of Zimbabwe.

    A native of Zimbabwe, Batsi has spent over twenty years working with US study abroad programs in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Between 1995 and 2000 he worked as Pitzer’s language and culture instructor-cum-coordinator on our Zimbabwean program. In 2000 he moved with the program to Botswana where he worked as our assistant director before leaving to start and direct the CIEE program at the University of Botswana. For five years at CIEE he was instrumental in setting up the semester program, a summer public health program, and an ongoing International Faculty Development Seminar for faculty and staff coming from the US. When offered the opportunity to return to Pitzer in 2012 as director of the program, Batsirai was excited to accept because he believes in our educational model, respects our students, enjoys working with Pitzer faculty, and sees tremendous potential in the program. Pitzer College was delighted when he agreed to take the lead in improving the quality of the program and expanding the curriculum to include South Africa and Zimbabwe. Batsi’s research interests include the history and politics of Southern Africa in relation to global political history. He is now the director of our Southern Africa Program.