A truly African campus

THE establishment of the South African chapter of the Monash University has presented an opportunity for the institution to be on the frontline of world debate.

THE establishment of the South African chapter of the Monash University has presented an opportunity for the institution to be on the frontline of world debate.

Monash's Simon Adams, who is head of the varsity's International Engagement, does not see the campus as a commercial or business venture for them but as something that underlines their commitment to uplifting the African continent.

Adams, who has spent some years in South Africa, argues that the campus represents their vision of being a research-intensive university , while at the same time focusing on themes and problems relevant to the region.

He says Monash SA could be described as a truly African campus as it comprises students from South Africa (about 45 percent), some from the SADC region and sprinkles from the rest of the continent.

"We do not want the South African campus to be an obscure ward in that part of the continent, so we want our researchers to constantly engage with it. We believe that what we have exported to SA is of enormous benefit to the country.

"We are also benefiting in terms of knowledge through our projects," Adams said.

Monash University is the largest in Australia, with an enrolment of close to 60000, with 30percent comprising expatriates from all over the world.

There is a lot, says Adams, that they have to offer as a country in as much as they have a lot to learn from South Africa. The campus, he says, was not set up as a commercial enterprise and that is why they had signed an agreement that they will never repatriate any money from South Africa.

This, he said, showed they wanted to have a long-term strategic engagement with Africa.

"For us to be able to be on the frontline of the world debate we strongly believe that the Australian government should set up an African centre. There is too much ignorance in the world about Africa and 'the only thing dark sbout the African continent is our ignorance of it'," he said.

The University is a research-intensive and internationally-focused university which delivers high quality education to students from many countries and performs globally relevant research and are currently undertaking one focusing on Mozambique where the quantities of cassava being grown are increasing.

Monash researchers in collaboration with researchers in Africa have discovered that when grown under elevated CO2, the tropical staple, cassava (manioc, tapioca), produces toxic cyanide at concentrations twice those under current day carbon dioxide levels.

With 45 percent of sub-Saharan Africans alone depending on cassava as their primary food source, the increasing toxicity in cassava threatens the livelihood of more than 750million people worldwide, Adams says.

Consumption of cassava with high cyanide levels results in the development of cyanide related diseases such as konzo, a disease which can cause paralysis and from which children are at particular risk.

The varsity aims to consolidate linkages that foster long term collaboration in the addressing this development issue.

Adams says the university has pledged at least AU$1 million (about R6,6m) every two years for the next decade and " we aim to recruit matching pledges from government, corporations and individuals".