Ubunye: Students Journey to South Africa

The Zulu word Ubunye (oneness or unity in English) is the name chosen by the junior class at Mount Madonna School (MMS) to represent their upcoming trip to South Africa. For the students, this unusual learning journey will be about seeing and gaining a new understanding of people in a part of the world that is far different from the one in which they live. On June 16 as part of the two-year Values in World Thought social studies program, the class will depart for Cape Town, their first stop on a journey of a lifetime.

In South Africa, they will visit schools and organizations to help expand their world view and build unity with the people they encounter. The students will meet and speak with several people influential people in the South African community including Nobel Peace Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

For the past few months, the students have been working hard fundraising for the trip, as well as gathering donations, physical and monetary, for the wonderful organizations they will visit.

While in South Africa they will have an ambitious schedule. Highlights of their stay in the Cape Town area will include: their meeting with Archbishop Tutu, and a visit to Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 21 years during Apartheid. While there they will have a private interview with Thulani Mabaso, a former political prisoner and Mandela contemporary.

The students will also visit and engage with the children and staff at the Philani Child Health and Nutrition Project in the township of Khayelitsha, as well as the students at LEAP School and Bergvliet High School.

The next stop will be Johannesburg, for an interview with Peter Harris, a civil rights attorney and author of “In a Different Time: The Inside Story of the Delmas Four.” Harris represented the Delmas Four in their seminal trial during the Apartheid years.

A significant part of their learning journey and service effort, involves Botshabelo near Magaliesburg, a rural school, orphanage, medical clinic and village where more than 250 children affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic are cared for and live. For the past few months, the students have been collecting assorted items, including clothing, computers, diapers, health and hygiene items and art supplies to take and donate to the villagers.

As a result of past collaborations between MMS student groups and students at several South African schools they have visited, this current group is invited to participate in the inaugural Uxhumano Intercultural Exchange Festival, to be held at the Moses Molelekwa Art Centre in Tembisa Township (near Johannesburg).

This effort, which aims to connect young people around the world, will be held biennially and is named in honor of the Mount Madonna School students who visited and performed with Tembisa High School students in 2015.

The last leg of the journey will take the students to Black Rhino Lodge located in the northwestern corner of Pilanesberg National Park to learn about the unique ecosystem of South Africa. They will tour this wildlife refuge for two days to develop an understanding of what it takes to conserve this important world resource.

The students have been preparing all school year to fully engage in this experience by studying the history, culture, and ecology of South Africa. They researched for their upcoming interviews and read books written by Peter Harris, among others. The year has also been one of fundraising, both to pay for the trip, and to make sure that they could contribute to the charities they will visit.

In the spirit of ubunye, the students will develop an understanding that to truly find unity with another human being is a great gift. South Africa is a country of contrasts with a unique history and much to teach the world about our humanity. The students understand that whatever they are bringing as gifts are just one way of saying “thank you” for the gifts of the human spirit they will receive from the people they encounter.

To hear more about their journey, follow the students’ blog: values.mountmadonnaschool.org/ubunye. Contributions to the students’ Ubunye South Africa fundraising effort can be made by contacting Mount Madonna School.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Director of Marketing & Communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.