The School for Ethics and Global Leadership

SEGL in Johannesburg

Spend a semester in South Africa!

SEGL in Johannesburg is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for intrepid intellectual explorers. It allows students to form deep bonds with the most promising young people on the African continent. And it gives them interpersonal and intellectual skills to last a lifetime.

SEGL in Johannesburg program is located on the African Leadership Academy (ALA) campus, a beautiful space approximately 30 minutes outside of the city. SEGL students are an integrated, full part of the ALA community, learning and living alongside students representing the entirety of the African continent, while also maintaining their own distinct cohort camaraderie.

Called the “City of Gold,” Johannesburg provides a world-class opportunity to study entrepreneurship, law, post-conflict reconciliation, and more. “Joburg” is Africa’s economic power plant: dozens of major companies are headquartered here. The city also contains the Supreme Court of South Africa, the nation’s top court, and the world’s largest urban forest. Students also visit nearby Soweto, the most famous of the apartheid-era townships and home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.


SEGL in Johannesburg students take the same rigorous college preparatory course schedule as SEGL in DC students, with a few important differences:

  • Our Ethics and Leadership course includes many African-based case studies and interacts closely with ALA’s flagship Entrepreneurial Leadership course.
  • Many SEGL in Johannesburg classes include both SEGL and ALA students. SEGL students learn from both SEGL and ALA faculty, highly-trained, fully-credentialed educators from Africa, the United States, and around the world.
  • SEGL in Johannesburg students can elect to take African Studies, one of ALA’s most popular and life-changing courses.

Course Offerings

SEGL courses are taught at the junior year honors and AP-level. (The curriculum often works well for seniors and gap year students.) Generally, each student takes a core schedule of English, history, math, foreign language, and science classes, in addition to the required Ethics & Leadership class.

Ethics & Leadership (required)
The Ethics and Leadership course is at the heart of SEGL’s mission. The course introduces ethical critical thinking and develops leadership skills, including public speaking, debate, and the understanding of group dynamics. Students use case studies, simulations, intensive discussions, readings, and interactions with distinguished guest speakers to develop these skills. Learn more about this unique course offering on the Ethics and Leadership page. In the SEGL in Johannesburg program, case studies and guest speakers will have a focus on current issues on the African continent.
English (required)
English class readings balance American and international writers (with some attention to the 11th grade literature “canon”), and emphasize diversity of experience and background. Written assignments range from ongoing journal entries to formal expository and persuasive writing. Though the course does not teach specifically to the AP English Language and Composition exam, students taking first semester English at SEGL will be prepared to enter the second semester of AP English at their sending school and/or to take the AP exam. The course provides outstanding preparation for the most demanding undergraduate programs, and aligns closely with the academic requirements at SEGL’s sending schools.
History: United States History
United States History at SEGL follows the standard historical sequence, with special attention given to the ethical dilemmas of American leaders, the causes and impact of United States foreign policy decisions, and the philosophical and constitutional foundations of American democracy. The course also provides outstanding preparation for the most demanding undergraduate programs, and closely aligns with the academic requirements at SEGL’s sending schools. Although the course does not teach specifically to the AP exam, significant time will be given to the AP curriculum and evaluative methods, and students who so choose will be prepared for that test. Students taking first semester United States History at SEGL will be prepared to enter the second semester (standard or AP level) at their sending schools.
History: African Studies
The African Studies department helps students understand Africa’s past and present while developing a vision for Africa’s future. Through the frameworks and research practices provided by the Humanities and Social Sciences, the department provides a context for students to develop perspectives on and examine their own connections to the broader African community. Depending on their schedules, students will have the option to join Year One African Studies classes, which provide a broad introduction to the field of African Studies, or Year Two classes, which explore special topics in depth over the course of the semester. Special topics might include African Politics and Governance, Social Justice in Africa, Writing the African Experience, and African Philosophy, among others.

SEGL offers both advanced and intermediate French and Spanish, courses that provide traditional language basics, with special emphasis on cultural understanding (government structures, ethical norms, etc., rather than food, holidays, etc) and diplomacy. Students taking first semester advanced French or Spanish at SEGL will be prepared to enter the second semester of the course (standard or AP level) at their sending schools.

SEGL is committed to allowing students to study any language they choose while in Johannesburg. In the past, we have had students continue their studies in Latin and Mandarin, as well as AP Spanish Literature. If a student is taking a language at home that SEGL does not offer, we may be able to arrange for a tutor to work with that student (or a small group of students) for an additional fee; the School considers financial aid when charging this fee.

SEGL offers AB Calculus, BC Calculus, and honors Precalculus (preparing students for immersion into AB or BC Calculus in their senior year). Students taking first semester mathematics at SEGL will be prepared to enter the second semester of the appropriate course at their sending schools. We survey sending school teachers to ensure close alignment with their curricula and often develop tracks within each class for students working at different paces.
Science: Chemistry
Science classes at SEGL in Johannesburg are based on the Cambridge A-Level system. Whether students are preparing to reintegrate into introductory or advanced chemistry at home, this semester-long laboratory course will meet their needs. Students planning to take the AP Chemistry exam in the spring will work independently, with guidance from the teacher, to prepare for the exam.
Science: Physics
Science classes at SEGL in Johannesburg are based on the Cambridge A-Level system. Whether students are preparing to reintegrate into introductory or advanced physics at home, this semester-long laboratory course will meet their needs. Students planning to take the AP Physics exam in the spring will work independently, with guidance from the teacher, to prepare for the exam.
Independent Study
Occasionally a student may be required to complete a course not normally offered as part of SEGL’s curriculum. Such a course is designated as an “Independent Study” and will receive full credit as one course. The approval of the SEGL Academic Dean is required for this type of independent study, along with extensive commitment from the student and the sending school teacher. Final, written approval is required by the sending school before the semester begins. The course syllabus, texts, and teaching materials must be provided by a student’s sending school. The role of SEGL teachers in these courses is to schedule regular class meetings; these will be listed as an official part of the student’s daily class schedule. SEGL faculty also participate, when appropriate, in discussions about course topics and administer tests or quizzes according to a schedule set by a syllabus or through consultation with students.


Evenings: From Sunday to Thursday, for two hours each night, students will have a required study hall, commonly referred to on campus as “prep.” This time is for completing homework, developing good study habits, and reflecting on the day’s learning. The prep program is monitored by a dedicated team of faculty.

Here’s a sample schedule.

Grading Policies

Grades for SEGL courses are awarded on an A-F scale. Though it is possible to earn an A+ on an individual assignment, SEGL does not award a final grade of A+. For the purposes of the student’s sending school GPA, all SEGL courses should be weighted as honors or AP level.

ALA-taught courses (sciences, African Studies, economics, and occasional other ALA-taught courses) are graded using the Cambridge system. SEGL collaborates with ALA teachers to translate these grades into the standard SEGL letter grade scale prior to sending grades home.

Twice a semester, at midterm and semester end, a student will receive grades, comments, and an advisor letter that documents their progress at SEGL. These records will be sent home and to the student’s sending school. The midterm grades and comments are indicators and are not intended for use on a transcript, while the final grades and comments will be sent to colleges.

Faculty Advising

SEGL students are well supported throughout their semester. SEGL in Johannesburg students have two unique advising experiences. First, each SEGL student is assigned an SEGL faculty advisor with whom they meet each week to discuss academic and social progress, future goals, and anything else on their minds. The SEGL advisor is the primary contact for families for information on the student’s academic and interpersonal wellbeing, and often serves as a source of support and a sounding board. Each SEGL student is also assigned to an ALA advisory family with whom they have a weekly group lunch and do other group activities. The ALA advisory family consists of 6-7 ALA students and 1-2 ALA faculty/staff members. ALA advisory families form the foundational units of ALA’s larger community, and advisees form strong bonds within these families.

Standardized Testing

SEGL provides a high level of academic rigor that is designed to develop critical thinking skills while preparing interested students for success on standardized exams. SEGL in Johannesburg helps arrange for students to take the PSAT in the fall semester and Advanced Placement tests in the spring, using their home school’s CEEB code. The School assumes all fall semester students will take the PSAT unless families indicate otherwise; fall semester students must register for any needed AP exams with their sending school. Spring semester students will have the opportunity to indicate which AP exams they plan to take while at SEGL.

SEGL encourages students to schedule standardized testing for the SAT, SAT II, and/or ACT outside of their semester: fall semester SEGL students should test in the spring, and spring semester SEGL students should test in the fall. When this is not possible, students may register for SAT exams at ALA, which is a College Board testing site. [Please note: Due to COVID-19, ALA is currently a closed testing site. In order to register, students must change their school designation to ALA.]

Student Life


SEGL students are immersed in the ALA campus, and that includes in the residence halls. Students are assigned to a double room with an ALA roommate in single-gender halls staffed by faculty and student RAs in the Nelson Mandela Residence. Student rooms have modest furnishings and closet space. There are shared bathrooms in the residential buildings as well as common areas with fridges, kettles, sinks, and microwaves. Students are issued room keys and dorm access cards. Bed linens are provided by ALA and free laundry machines are available in the residential facility. (Students must provide their own detergent.) Irons and ironing boards are also available.


Students eat well at SEGL! Meals are served in the dining hall three times a day, with snacks also provided three times a day. Students do not need to buy their own food. ALA’s food service is provided by a well-respected catering company that can accommodate a variety of diets (e.g. vegetarian, Halaal, Kosher, etc.).


During the weekends, students have time for laundry, studying, field trips and service projects, naps, exercise, and fun with friends. SEGL faculty often lead outings to local sites in and around Johannesburg. The ALA Student Government organizes excursions to nearby shopping malls twice a month to provide students with easy access to shopping, movies, hair salons, and banks. Learn more about student life at the ALA campus.

Dress Guidelines

As members of the greater ALA community, SEGL follows the dress guidelines provided by ALA to their students, including providing school uniforms to be worn during class hours. Students will be provided two sets of uniforms, except for socks and shoes, that are meant to be worn on specific days during the school week. Uniforms include two types of shirts (maroon tunic or black t-shirt) and two types of bottoms (trousers or tracksuit). Shoes may either be dressy (black, closed-toe, flat, non-designed) or black sneakers, and socks should be black or grey (either over the ankle or stockings). Students may also wear an SEGL- or ALA-branded hoodie or school blazer (for formal occasions). For Saturday classes and during non-academic hours, students may wear non-uniform attire in alignment with SEGL’s non-gender specific dress policy.

Physical Fitness

SEGL values the role of physical fitness in a student’s experience. ALA has four competitive sports teams (soccer, basketball, netball, and volleyball) and SEGL students may try out for the teams whether they have experience or not! The ALA campus also has a soccer field; outdoor volleyball, basketball, and tennis courts; and an indoor fitness room. SEGL students often take advantage of these facilities as well as the opportunity to run laps around the beautiful ALA campus.


Students should bring a laptop computer if they have access to one; SEGL has a limited number of loaner computers available. The ALA campus has wireless Internet access and printers are available. Students will receive ALA email addresses and be included on campus communications. SEGL students take a four-week phone break at the beginning of each semester, meaning they do not have access to their personal cell phones during this time. This is encouraged by students from previous semesters and helps to create a strong, present community.

Getting around Johannesburg

During the academic day, students remain on the enclosed ALA campus. It is easy to walk between dorms, academic buildings, and exercise locations. On weekends, or when students go on site visits or fun excursions, SEGL faculty coordinate group transportation using ALA’s buses and drivers. Note that SEGL faculty also accompany students when they fly between the United States to South Africa at the start and end of the semester.

Health and Safety

The ensured health and safety of every SEGL student is our primary goal. SEGL students live on the ALA campus, a self-contained space with perimeter fencing and a 24-hour security staff that provides on-campus rounds, inspection of all vehicles entering campus, CCTV supervision, and biometric access control systems (e.g. for dorm access). Most buildings are closed after school hours. There are also detailed procedures for students leaving campus for any reason. SEGL in Johannesburg students are enrolled in local health insurance plans as part of the visa process, covering them for routine and emergency care throughout the semester.