What began as event to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s legacy through the collection of books for the children in local communities, soon became a clarion call. Monash South Africa, launched the Mandela Month Book Drive on 11 July, together with Spell It and Nedbank Capital with an initial donation of 8 000 books, had the vision to double this amount within a month.

Monash South Africa believes that access to education empowers and enables children and youth, and that is also has a lasting positive impact on learners and local communities. The book drive is among the many campus initiatives in place aimed at improving literacy levels and empowering students from challenged and less fortunate backgrounds.

The idea for the Mandela Month Book Drive took root when Monash South Africa received word that a former Australian exchange student, Oliver Moraes, had gathered over 8000 books that would arrive in South Africa in July. Monash South Africa made a commitment to significantly increase the number of books for the benefit of children from the surrounding communities, and a team of dedicated staff and students worked tirelessly to make this a reality.

“We want more children to be able to experience the joy of owning their own books. The purpose of this book drive is to enable learners to be able to access the same opportunities that we often take for granted. We want to impart the importance of knowledge and education to young people in communities to which we are connected and committed,” said CEO of Monash South Africa, Esther Benjamin.

Since the launch of the book drive, Monash South Africa has collected over 20 000 books through the generous donations from various organisations such as the Monash University Peninsula campus, the Early Learning Resource Unit, Cambridge University Press SA and Brand Union. Local high schools have also put their philanthropic foot forward by participating in the initiative.

“There has been an overwhelming response to the call for books and it is through such committed community and educational partners that we will see the literacy levels improve in South Africa,” said Craig Rowe, Head of Community Engagement at Monash South Africa.

Within the past two months, thousands of books have been delivered to schools and community centres in Cosmo City, Muldersdrift, Kromdraai and Soweto. On Mandela Day, Monash South Africa staff and students delivered children’s books to Early Childhood Development centres in Zandspruit and Joubert Park where over two hundred children from pre-school through to high school were given their own books and encouraged to start reading groups in their communities.

Both staff and students at Monash South Africa share their skills and time with the community regularly. Over 1 500 students are involved in community engagement initiatives annually from volunteering through to service learning placements and internships. This out-of-classroom learning experience contributes to employability as students develop leadership skills that are sought after by employers; including team work, project management, budgeting, time management, crisis management and communication skills.