Living and Learning Politics
Johannesburg, South Africa resembles New York City in terms of size and what’s available. But rural life in the country is very different according to Political Science graduate Carla Ball.
“In rural areas of South Africa, people live in cardboard, or metal corrugated shacks. They are the size of a small bathroom! In a lot of cases, there is no running water, if there is, then it is generated by a windmill which is shared between acres of property regardless of the number of people living on it,” she says.
Carla was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about international political development first hand when she accepted a position as an intern in Parliamentary Operations in the Gauteng (pronounced ‘howtang’ and one of nine provinces which comprise South Africa).
As an intern, Carla takes part in visits to government development projects in rural areas throughout the province. One of the projects involved a development project on starting your own business. She and five others made an over 500 km journey on mostly dirt roads to a very rural site. “The drive was long, hot and dusty,” she says. They arrived at a single solitary shop that was “amidst fields of brown dirt and brown grass, and the occasional corrugated house.” This was where people were being taught how to make use of available materials to make money for themselves.
She has also had to write reports that analyze the success rate of five international countries that are developing their education systems. “Lack of access to schools presents a real problem in many rural areas,” says Carla.
Her ten-month contract will be completed this spring, and Carla plans to return to Halifax and earn a Master’s degree in Public Administration in the near future. She would like to eventually work in an international diplomacy position one day, for either the Canadian government or a non-governmental organization such as the Parliamentary Center. “Maybe some day, I’ll be accepted to the foreign service – if I’m really lucky.”
“Choosing to attend Saint Mary’s was probably the best decision I have ever made in my entire life,” says Carla. “That and coming to South Africa. The friendships I developed with students and professors through virtually effortless interactions, was the most fulfilling aspect of my time at Saint Mary’s. There was an incredible atmosphere at Saint Mary’s which I will never forget.”
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