Under Richard Larkins’ vice-chancellorship, community involvement came to redefine the South Africa campus. In 2008, Monash South Africa was approached by a non-government organisation looking for help. They needed space for a Saturday program to assist the primary school in the local settlement of Zandspruit. The poor township, only 5 kilometres from MSA’s beautiful new campus, houses 60,000 people on one square kilometer. The school is a collection of shipping containers, where over one thousand children learn at crowded desks with limited resources.
But it was Monash’s students who really drove the program. They effectively hijacked it. Student volunteers – as many as seventy MSA students, most of them African – provide one-on-one tutoring in basic maths and literacy. Once the study is over, they all share a barbeque lunch and play soccer.
In 2012, the program was extended even further to include local high school students. These students work on a program based on the high school curriculum and deisgned to boost pass rates and bridge the gap to university student. Some of the volunteers are themselves graduates of the program, who now study at MSA on bursaries.
The students at Monash South Africa have taken Sir John Monash’s words to heart, and let it guide them in their community involvement: ‘Adopt as your fundamental creed that you will equip yourself for life, not solely for your benefit alone, but for the benefit of your community’.