Dana Hall returns to South Africa this spring, with extra paperwork

Spring break 2016 will be the fourth time that Dana Hall School has traveled to South Africa; this year, however, students will have to prepare for more than just safaris and tourist attractions. Changes to South Africa’s foreign policy will affect Dana Hall participants traveling in March.

While in South Africa, students will immerse themselves in the history of the mid to late twentieth century anti-Apartheid movement. They will visit Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, as well as other tourist sites. They will attend the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, participate in community service, and venture on a two-day safari in Kruger National Park. Corinne Ribakoff ’17, who attended the trip in 2014, said that “the South Africa trip was undoubtedly one of my favorite Dana Hall experiences; not only did I get to visit such a beautiful country and learn more about it, but I made so many great memories and connections”. Students in grades 8-12 are invited to register by contacting Ms. Heather Panahi of the Social Studies Department.

One problem that South Africa faces, however, is that thousands of children are abducted and trafficked each year. To counteract this problem, the South African Department of Home Affairs has established a new foreign policy that will affect minors traveling into and out of the country. A key component of this policy is the new system of permission that each guardian must attest to. Non-South African citizens, such as Dana Hall students traveling to South Africa, will have to have a passport, birth certificate, and a parental consent affidavit from both parents.

According to Assistant Head of School Robert Mather, the new laws regarding South African immigration will require a bit more paperwork than usual for students and families, but Dana Hall will work closely with participants to ensure that they possess all of the proper documentation for the trip. Mr. Mather commented, “Safety is always of paramount importance on Dana Hall trips, and we have run many successful trips to South Africa in the past. We hope that students and their families will continue to take advantage of this unique experience.” Regarding the many international students at Dana Hall Ms. Panahi, a facilitator of the trip, stated, “Some of the paperwork will have to be done at home when they’re back home in December, which previously didn’t have to happen, but other than that I think we have the whole thing ironed out.”

Spencer Babcock ’17, who is attending the trip this spring, is “really looking forward to the social justice aspects of the trip. After taking African studies last year it’s such a unique opportunity to visit the places that shaped South Africa’s history in regards to apartheid”.

Child trafficking, abduction, and kidnapping reportedly affects 30,000 children in South Africa each year, according to Times Live. Although some critics think this estimate is exaggerated, it is a huge dilemma for the nation of South Africa. According to Africa Check, “In 2010, the International Organization for Migration conducted a Southern Africa counter-trafficking program review. It noted that the organization had assisted 306 victims of trafficking in Southern Africa during the period from January 2004 to January 2010. That is an average of 51 cases detected per year for the whole of the Southern African region. Fifty seven of the 306 victims assisted were children.”

Africa sceneWhen South African parents or guardians leave South Africa with children, they must produce an unabridged birth certificate. This certificate shows details of both parents of the child, as well as a valid passport. states that a court order must grant full “parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship in respect of the child.” If children travel as unaccompanied minors, they must provide proof of consent from both of their parents and a letter from the people who will receive them at the airport, as well as the contact and passport information of whom they will be staying with.

This new policy applies to both foreigners and South Africans alike. According to, “The regulations came into effect at the end of May, but the Department of Home Affairs has delayed their implementation until 1 October, to make allowance for families who have already made plans for the upcoming school holidays.” Seychelles News Agency reports that experts believe these new rules will likely hurt tourism and “affect millions of migrants working in and contributing to the already suffering economy of the large South African nation.” Despite these beliefs about tourism, Mr. Mather and Ms. Panahi of Dana Hall are optimistic about the trip’s success.

Photographs: Scenes from the 2014 Dana Hall trip to South Africa. Photo sources: Julia Donovan ’17 (top) and Maddie Rivers ’17 (left).

Comments are closed.