Unemployment continues to be a crisis in South Africa as it is in many developing countries around the world. With the global economic pendulum as it is, affecting even the largest economies in the world, the ultimate driver for a solution is the empowerment that education can bring.

Inspired by the idea of engaging with the surrounding communities and in turn, creating mutually beneficial relationships, Monash South Africa created the Saturday School programme. The concept is simple: every child deserves individualized care and education.

In 2007, Roger Dickenson, a social entrepreneur who works with a number of NGOs, partnered up with the Monash South Africa Community Engagement department to develop a Saturday School programme. For at least five hours each Saturday, at the Monash South Africa campus in Ruimsig, Johannesburg, student volunteers facilitate mathematics, English, science and computer classes for primary and high school learners from underprivileged schools in the area.

In 2010, the programme expanded by including an Each One, Teach One division for primary school learners, focusing on literacy and numeracy skills, by pairing up one student volunteer with one primary school learner. The individualized attention of the Each One, Teach One programme is highly successful in improving the educational outcomes for the learners.

The programme currently hosts over 80 young learners and with the growing number of volunteers, the Saturday School has expanded its reach by introducing an empowering life skills programme for grade 9 learners. “This initiative is very fulfilling and helps us to learn from each other. The learners are growing more confident in each session and the volunteers continue to build on their own leadership skills,” said MUSASA (Monash South Africa Student Association) Community Outreach officer, Lebo Sekhotla.

Twenty one year-old, Francisca Nkhabu was part of the first group of learners to join the Saturday School programme and is now an Honours student who helps run the programme. “When the students who have gone through Saturday School and make it all the way to university, become the ones who give back to the community by running the Saturday Schools themselves, the whole programme becomes sustainable and even more effective each year,” said Craig Rowe, head of the Community Engagement department.

Monash South Africa strives to ensure strong graduate outcomes for each and every student. In addition to their academic journey, students are mentored and developed through community engagement initiatives with the goal of building their leadership skills. Other skill sets developed include time-management, project management, budgeting and communication – all of which are attributes and skills employers seek when hiring fresh graduates.