Helping Young Learners to Discover Their Passions

2017

Vimbai Angela Butawu, a student at Monash South Africa (MSA), remembers how formative it was for her to experience moments of self-confidence and accomplishment when she was growing up. For her, those moments didn’t always come in a classroom setting, but in reading poetry and understanding that something she created could invoke a feeling in others. That feeling — of recognition, pride, and accomplishment — is what she hopes to invoke in the young learners who participate in the initiative she founded called “Thusanang,” which means “to help one another” in Sotho.

Butawu is originally from Zimbabwe and came to MSA to study child and youth development and criminology and is now seeking her postgraduate diploma in management, specializing in corporate governance. When she arrived on campus, she immediately got involved in MSA’s vibrant community engagement programs, specifically in tutoring eighth graders at a local primary school. She soon heard in the voices of the students a sentiment similar to her own when she was younger: they needed a way to discover and be recognized for their passions, whatever they might be.

“Thusanang bridges the gap for learners so that they can explore their passions and feel a part of the school community, not solely based upon their academic standing,” Butawu said. Each week, more than 40 volunteers from MSA come to the campus of the primary school and conduct coaching in drama, netball, and soccer. Students are able to learn and express themselves in fun, creative ways outside the classroom, while practicing their English skills. And each year, there is a culminating talent show that showcases the work of students and places them in front of local and Laureate leaders.

It was as a volunteer for one of MSA’s community engagement programs that Butawu came up with this idea, and she hopes to give a similar experience to all of the volunteers who work with her. She believes that service to the community is baked into the ethos of MSA, which has continued to provide transportation and financial support for her initiative. Already, Thusanang has served more than 900 children and empowered many families in the community.

Butawu knows that students who are empowered in their unique passions will carry those skills over into their studies and whatever else they decide to do. She sees in the eyes of the students an exuberance and curiosity that many miss, and she is committed to giving learners the chance to discover what it is that will make them light up and grow in their own confidence.

“Education does not end in the classroom or on the field,” Butawu said. “Never limit a child; give them an opportunity and they will show you what they are capable of.