In honour of Africa’s timeless tradition of telling stories, and in celebration of Mandela Month, Monash South Africa (MSA) has collaborated with publisher of African children’s books, the Ducere Foundation to curate and print a collection of stories written by local primary school learners from Zandspruit community. This book containing the African stories written by children of South Africa will be distributed by MSA to schools in the tertiary institution’s community engagement programme. In 2014, the campus collected and donated thousands of books to the children in nearby communities as part of their Mandela Month activities.  This year, these children have written the book for MSA to share. The stories within the book will serve as an African alterative to the many children’s books written from a Western point of view.

“The need for intellectual development and stimulation while inspiring critical thinking remains a pressing issue, particularly within the South African context, where too many of our young people are not receiving the tools to enable the education they deserve. By providing reading materials, and nurturing a love of books and stories in our children, we take a step closer towards ensuring their academic success later on in life.”

“This project not only lends support to this process, but also allows South African children to embrace this aspect of the learning experience in a uniquely African way. By extending our influence beyond the learners at MSA, and empowering the education of youth in nearby communities, we can help ensure that an increasing number of young South Africans become successful, productive members of their communities,” says Craig Rowe Director; Engagement at Monash South Africa.

The young authors of the stories are part of the “This is Me” community service programme, which is managed by MSA second year student, Sahl Karim. The project sees MSA students lend support to schools in the surrounding area of Zandspruit, by teaching learners literacy skills while mentoring the students and encouraging a love of learning. The publication of their stories is but one of the many successful outcomes of this programme.

“The value of storytelling and literacy in education simply cannot be overstated, but the key lies in providing culturally appropriate material so that young and creative minds can truly flourish. By encouraging children to write the stories they would most like to hear, we can ensure that learners engage with their education in a way that is meaningful to them. This book of uniquely South African stories, told from a child’s perspective, achieves this objective and more,” explains Ducere Foundation’s Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Terri Irvin.

MSA students and staff strive to meet the real needs of the communities they serve.  The campus as a whole, has developed and participates in several on-going sustainable education initiatives such as the “This is Me” programme, as a manner of honouring Mandela’s legacy of empowering communities through education.

It was Nelson Mandela who said, “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future.” There can surely be no better way to ensure an empowered future than by encouraging young South Africans to maximise their potential through education. Madiba also once wrote in a letter; “everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”