UCT hosts public health course for international students

12 Oct 2017 - 08:30
A visit to Mitchells Plain Clinic

For six weeks in June and July, UCT hosted a short course on ‘Public health in South Africa’ for students from Johns Hopkins University in the US. The students who attended the course were all public health majors in the second, third and fourth year of their studies. The aim of the programme was to strengthen the participants’ perspectives on global health.

The course was organised by the Global Short Academic Programmes (GSAP) unit of IAPO, in collaboration with UCT’s HIV/AIDS Inclusivity & Change Unit (HAICU), and facilitated by the HAICU’s Lucina Reddy. UCT academics presented lectures on the subject covering themes of public health strategies, evaluations, interventions and funding, among other areas.

During the course, the students were exposed to the issues of public health and HIV/AIDS treatment in South Africa. The programme provided a platform for the students to engage in dialogue about South Africa’s public health system and served as an opportunity for them to engage with local communities and experience first-hand the issues dealt with in their course material.

The students each undertook an internship at a community-based organisation, which allowed them to understand the cultural context of HIV/AIDS and other diseases in South Africa. The community-based learning stimulated thinking, perspective and independence not possible through classroom material alone.

“The combination of class learning and site learning meant that we were constantly engaging in the problems we were learning about in class. This made me more passionate as I was learning about the relevance of these issues in real time,” explains Michelle Ondari, one of the eleven students from Johns Hopkins University who attended the course.

The students’ schedule also included excursions to Cape Town’s historical and cultural landmarks: tours to the Bo Kaap, Cape Point, Robben Island and a homestay in Zwelethemba Township.

A feature of the programme was a session with UCT students to discuss ‘Social justice in higher education: student activism in South Africa and USA’. The interaction allowed the visiting students to engage with students at UCT on issues of shared interest. The UCT students also learned about the similar issues that affect students in other parts of the world. This is part of IAPO’s Internationalisation at Home Strategy, which strives to bring the world to UCT by providing platforms for global perspectives.

The Johns Hopkins University students considered the course a success. They embraced the experience and appreciated the range of exposure they gained to different, relevant themes. The students indicated that the course had a positive impact on both their academic and personal development.