Second-year students win Davis Grant, will spend summer in South Africa encouraging youth development

Project to study African tradition of ubuntu


Jillian Randolph, Sophie Binns, Maddie Curry and Nanki Kaur will spend their summers in South Africa. 

A group of second-year students will spend their summer using the African tradition of ubuntu to improve community development in South African towns.

The four second-year College students— Jillian Randolph, Sophie Binns, Maddie Curry and Nanki Kaur— were awarded grants from the Davis Projects for Peace for two separate projects focused on strengthening the community and improving generational dialogues.

“We have one that’s focusing on youth development and youth engagement in a township outside of Cape Town and then we have another project that’s looking at health assemblages and how possibly using the philosophy of ubuntu can help with healthcare and people complying with health care,” Randolph said.

Ubuntu is an African humanist philosophy that Randolph said can be described best by the quote, “I am because you are, and you are because we are.”

“It’s like this camaraderie and human commonality and the one thing that ties us together is that we’re both human so I’m going to take care of you and you’re going to take care of me,” Randolph said. “In our community specifically, it takes form in people being responsible for other people’s kids and so if they see their neighbor’s kids doing something wrong, they’re going to speak up about it.”

The student researchers found the integration of this African philosophy may be the key to solving some of the intergenerational problems they have witnessed in these communities.

“The youth project is also using ubuntu to engage the community further so we can kind of solve the multigenerational conflict going on,” Randolph said. “You have the older people who believe that they still exhibit ubuntu and that the kids in the younger generation aren’t, so if we can use ubuntu to link the two towards a common goal I think that it can strengthen the community.”

The project is a continuation of previous research done by University students. However, this is the first time the Davis Projects for Peace has been awarded to the project.

According to the David Projects for Peace website, the program is an “invitation to undergraduates at the American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design grassroots projects that they will implement during the summer of 2017.”

Andrus Ashoo, associate director of the University’s Center for Undergraduate Excellence, said 120 projects were awarded funding this year through Davis Projects for Peace.

The University is one of 90 other partner institutions that participated with Davis UWC Scholar Program this year.

The students also received five other grants for their ubuntu-focused research project, including the Jefferson Public Citizens award.

“There's multiple groups that get JPC every year at U.Va., but for Davis, each involved university can nominate one research team and then the Davis people decide which nominated teams get funding,” Binns said.

Randolph said the previous findings of former research groups on the topics of development influenced their project, which noted ubuntu was commonly mentioned when speaking to women about the youth in the towns.

“The women in Cape Town were saying that they kind of wanted this youth center because the youth were getting involved in not-so-great activities — to put it lightly — and ubuntu really came out towards the end of the focus groups that we saw,” she said. “The intergenerational conflict as well as how people in the township feel about their doctors could really be helped by ubuntu which would really help us analyze how those actions occur. And so this was all kind of pulled and extrapolated from previous data.”

Overall, the students said they hope to encourage community cohesion and get to the root of the issues in the township.

“The best case scenario is that we create this sustainable youth development goal or we find a way to help the health professionals and the people that are visiting the health clinics in the area be able to communicate better so they are on the same page about health care,” Randolph said. 

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