Sarita misses the chattering classes

March 26, 1999

David Jobbins reports on the South African connection in the second part of a survey on global student mobility

Sarita Ranchod studied at Rhodes University before enrolling for a masters in gender and development at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Sussex.

"The areas of focus include micro-credit/micro-finance programmes for women, investigating the endemic violence against women in South Africa, and support and mobilisation strategies for lifting South Africa's majority poor out of the cycle of poverty."

Limited material resources in South Africa would make this investigation difficult there. Ranchod said: "I would not have had the opportunity to use resources such as the British Library of Development Studies I or the range of international experience at Sussex.

"I am also recognised as a valued member of this group, and participants are able to draw on my experiences of working for the United Nations Development Programme in South Africa through the years of transition."

Ranchod has found adapting to the British system of education easier than she expected. "The style of teaching is far more participatory and less 'top down'."

She has met few "real" British people outside her university environment. "I've found the British to be quite closed and private, not really open to meeting new people.

"One of the more enduring and amusing experiences of living here for me has been using public transport - people don't acknowledge each other and basically ignore each other on trains and buses. This is very different from South Africa, where public transport is full of chatter, with people talking to each other and discussing news or politics."

She said the first group of Mandela scholars has encountered some teething problems. "I hope these problems will be smoothed out for future groups. Living on a limited stipend when the cost of living is extremely high has been difficult."

On her return to South Africa she hopes to work in the public or NGO sector in the area of pro-poor policy or advocacy. "I enjoy working with people at a grass-roots level, so would prefer to be located close to real-life experiences of poverty and inequality."

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