Monash South Africa (MSA) has placed children’s needs centre stage with the establishment of a student-run volunteer program and a community engagement teaching initiative.

These new projects are based on the idea that MSA and surrounding community have a mutual interest in developing a positive future.

MSA Community Engagement Coordinator, Bronwyn du Rand, said the programs have been developed to serve students in a more targeted manner.

“Our two main activities are now reaching out to the local community. The first one replaces our traditional Saturday school classes and this is the weekday programme named ‘Ulwazi’ (which means knowledge) where Monash student volunteers visit Matla and Cosmo City High Schools. This program expands our educational support to all grade 7-12 learners at the schools,” Ms du Rand said.

The Ulwazi tutoring programme consists of approximately 15 Monash students setting out into the local community of Cosmo city and Kromdraai every Monday and Thursday to tutor students in grades 10, 11 and 12. These students often assist more than 100 pupils per day.

The programme is designed to support the work of teachers and reinforce the learning students receive during their schooling hours. It aims to provide students with a sound basis in subjects like geography, business studies, economics and life sciences, with a specific emphasis on mathematics and physical sciences.

“The success of Ulwazi is not only due to the academic support given, but also the positive role models our students are to these learners. Many of the learners our volunteers tutor benefit from having someone who is not too much older than them, encouraging them to achieve academically,” Ms du Rand said.

“Some of the successful bursary students themselves come from these schools and have become our most dedicated volunteers in the Ulwazi program.”

The second program, ‘Each One Teach One’ (EOTO) was designed to improve literacy and numeracy in students from Grades 4-6 at both Masakane and Zandspruit primary schools. It provides each student with one volunteer per learner, who can oversee and monitor their student’s development and fast-track their academic success.

Currently assisting 55 learners who come to MSA every staurday, the EOTO program helps to establish each student with the confidence and habits of studying that will last a lifetime.

All programs  also work in conjunction with other social groups that can assist local students with broader needs. One of these is the Hope World Wide group which measures the needs of the local community and conducts a series of vulnerability tests called the Child Status Index (CSI) tool.

This tool helps to assess which areas these students are vulnerable, alongside other reciprocal community partners, and can assist to fulfil other physical needs, such as nutritional support and accommodation.