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South African students visit CSU

By Deon Broyles

October 13, 2011

Students from the University of Free State, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, have been visiting universities in America as part of their program to understand diversity.

UFS enacted a program in 2010 called the Study Abroad Leaders for Change. Of the 150 students participating in this year’s program, six students visited CSU for two weeks in September.

The group visiting Cleveland State included Reza Van Rooyen, a journalist who works for Die Volksbald, an Afrikaans newspaper, and teaches journalism at UFS.

According to George C. Burke, director of the center for international services and programs at CSU, the exchange students went to classes with CSU students and visited places like the Karamu House and interacted with organizations, including the black studies department and the student government association.

Burke explained that the students were involved in a diversity program instituted by Vice-Chancellor Jonathan Jansen.

“The vice-chancellor of UFS received an honorary degree from Cleveland State two years ago,” said Burke. “He is trying to integrate the students in the classes more and trying to get them to respect and understand diversity.”

Talking with journalism students and faculty in the School of Communication, Van Rooyen discussed news media in South Africa. She said her newspaper Die Volksbald, owned by Media 24, is one of the three largest newspapers in South Africa. As the paper is written in Afrikaans, a language spoken mostly by the white community, it is composed of mostly white staff and writes primarily for a white audience between the ages of 23 and 30.

Van Rooyen shared with CSU journalism students what it is like to be a reporter in South Africa since the dismantling of apartheid, a legal system of racial separation.
“Apartheid is always looming in the back of our heads,” she said. “Volksblad is mostly a white newspaper focused on the white market, so it’s always a problem. The government tries to make it a problem.”

According to Burke, CSU will someday enact its own diversity program and ultimately send students to South Africa.

“I’ll sit down with the vice president for institutional diversity, Dr. Njeri Nuru-Holm,” Burke said. “She and I will probably sit down and develop a strategy on how to select students and recruit students for the program.”