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Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO)
Founders Andrew Kinnear, Golda Selzer
Type Student-run NGO
Registration No. NPO 002-830
Founded July 1943
Headquarters Braemar Cottage
UCT Medical School
Anzio Road
Observatory 7925
South Africa
Area served Cape Town metropolitan area
Focus Health, Education
Mission To improve the quality of life of individuals in developing communities within the Cape metropolitan area.
Volunteers 1,200

SHAWCO, the Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation is a student-run NGO based at the University of Cape Town, that seeks to improve the quality of life for individuals in developing communities within the Cape Metropolitan area.

SHAWCO was founded in 1943 by Andrew Kinnear, a medical student who was moved to action by the need which he saw in the impoverished communities of Cape Town.[1] The organisation has grown over the years and now has 1200 student volunteers running over 15 health and education projects in 5 SHAWCO centres as well as other locations around the Cape Metropolitan area.

SHAWCO is divided into 2 main sectors: Education and Health. A third "staff sector" coordinates the SHAWCO community centres, transport, resource development, administrative oversight and project support.



SHAWCO was started in July 1943 by Andrew Kinnear, a University of Cape Town medical student, who spent the vacation driving an ambulance to earn money to pay for his medical training. Andrew Kinnear asked Dr Golda Selzer of the Pathology Department at Groote Schuur Hospital to assist him in establishing a clinic. Dr Selzer became one of the cofounders of SHAWCO and remained SHAWCO honorary life president until her death in 1999. In 2001, Mrs Graca Machel agreed to become SHAWCO's new life president.

What started as a one-man initiative has grown into one of the largest student volunteer organisations on the African continent, attracting over 900 UCT students, close to 300 foreign students, as well as about 20 community volunteers every year. SHAWCO's developmental strategies include healthcare projects and multi-purpose community centers with skills training and recreation projects.[2]


Shawco Health Logo.jpg

Since 1943, SHAWCO has developed a reputation of delivering quality primary health care in under-resourced communities. The Free clinics run by SHAWCO rely on volunteer medical and allied health science students in all years of study and qualified doctors.[1]


What happens on the clinics?

During clinics, around 25 patients are seen by medical students under the supervision of a qualified volunteer doctor who oversees the proceedings, verifies diagnoses and provides advice. Clinical year students are responsible for clerking, examination and treatment of the patients, while also guiding and teaching pre-clinical students who observe and examine patients under guidance. This fulfils another major role of the clinics – providing education and experience to future doctors and instilling a passion for primary health care. The students who volunteer for SHAWCO clinics say that they are better prepared to deal with the rigours of their community service year and are more likely to stay on in South Africa thereafter.[2]

Services offered

SHAWCO provides a primary health care service, treating conditions such as diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, muscular-skeletal ailments and other non-specialty disease.[3] The clinics provide holistic management which includes care provided by physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, dietetics and audiology students who have great dedication to helping provide an appropriate service to the community.[3] The pharmacy offers free drugs to patients attending the clinics.[3] Students work very closely with community health workers within the community. These community health workers contribute to decisions made concerning the various clinics and help educate patients around specific health issues. When confronted with a patient requiring a higher level of care or a patient for whom facilities to treat are not available, the patient is referred to the local day hospital or secondary hospital.[3]


Evening Clinics[4]

SHAWCO Health co-ordinates six clinics which operate at night on a weekly basis in various Cape Town communities.


Newrest (in Gugulethu)

Simthandile (in Khayelitsha)


Masiphumelele (in Noordhoek)

Brown’s Farm (in Nyanga)


Joe Slovo (in Milnerton)

Zibonele (in Khayelitsha)

Paediatric Clinics

The Saturday morning paediatric clinic alternates every 2 weeks between Imizamo Yethu, an informal settlement in Hout Bay, and Du Noon.[4]

SHAWCO also runs a Wednesday morning paediatric screening clinic, in collaboration with the School of Child and Adolescent Health at the University of Cape Town.[4] These clinics often serve as the only port-of-call for community members who work during the day, or who cannot make the trip to the neighbouring day hospital. The clinics either operate from permanent health facilities or from SHAWCO Health’s three, fully-equipped mobile clinics.


Year Number of clinics Number of student volunteers Number patients
2009[4] 180 694 4806
2008[4] 160 477 4208
2007[4] 134 - 3596


In 2009 a new data capturing system was introduced to track student attendance, patient demography and disease characteristics.[4]

694 medical and allied health sciences students (including 585 UCT and 109 international students) offered clinics to over 4800 people in the communities we serve.[4]

Two-thirds of patients seen on the clinics were female, with the average age of patients 22 years. Approximately 44% of patients seen on the clinics were under the age of 18. The leading complaints on the clinics were respiratory tract infections (29.5%), skin rashes (16.5%), gastro-intestinal disorders (14.9%), Orthopaedic and Rheumatological complaints (9.6%) and sexually transmitted diseases (5.3%).[4]

Additional Projects

International Students Programme

2009 was the first year Shawco Health ran an international students project. In January 2009 a group of 12 Australian medical students from the University of New South Wales in their final year came over to South Africa for their elective block and ran the clinics. Traditionally, UCT students only begin SHAWCO clinics in February, thus the Australian students were able to add one extra month of services to the communities.[4]

In June/July, 12 Norwegian Students came to run the clinics during UCT’s 3 week vacation, adding another 3 weeks to SHAWCO's services.[4]

Rural Health Programme

In July 2009, nine medical students, an audiologist and a nursing sister from Mowbray Maternity Hospital traveled to Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape, an extremely rural part of South Africa where people have to travel for many hours to access health care.[4] The team worked in partnership with Zithulele Hospital, running health promotional and educational activities in the local clinics, specifically pertaining to HIV and breastfeeding practices. Over 5 days, the students also ran clinics for over 360 patients, concurrently training around 60 clinic staff members regarding correct breastfeeding practices.[4]

This was a pilot programme with the long-term vision being a multi-disciplinary intervention (health students, engineers, lawyers, social workers etc) by students from various universities throughout South Africa.

Grand Ward Rounds

SHAWCO hosts grand ward rounds for all UCT medical students. These offer students the opportunity to report on cases they had seen on SHAWCO clinics and share their learning with their peers.[4] In addition, there is always a guest speaker who addresses the students on a topic pertinent to primary health care (PHC). Previous topics have included “common dermatological problems encountered in PHC” and “PHC Paediatrics”.[4]

SHAWCO Response to Xenophobic Attacks, May 2008

On May 12, 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra (in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg) when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.[5] Many African nationals were threatened, assaulted and displaced in the wave of Xenophobic violence that swept through South Africa, and in the following weeks the violence spread to Cape Town.[6] SHAWCO responded to the needs of the people affected by this violence.[7]

SHAWCO volunteers conveyed donated clothing, food and hygiene products which were distributed to the different sites of refuge around Cape Town.[8] The Health sector, headed up by Thandi de Wit and Britta McLaren, working in partnership with other civil society organisations (Treatment Action Campaign and Médecins Sans Frontières), ran the first standardised assessment across 33 sites two days after the mass exodus of foreign nationals from the townships.[8]

This assessment collected data on many things including numbers of men, women and children, shelter, food provision, health needs, health services and safety. The framework used for this data collection later adopted by the City of Cape Town Disaster Management Team.[8] From the data gathered, SHAWCO was able to identify sites in need of extra health support. SHAWCO ran an additional 9 clinics to sites of refuge around the Cape Peninsula, treating over 600 people.[8]

SHAWCO Education

SHAWCO Education is a development program that facilitates tutoring in various subjects for school learners and young adults in previously disadvantaged communities. Academic subjects such as Maths, English, Science, Geography and Life Orientation are taught, as well as extra-curricular programs like Arts and Sports. There are also several special interest projects which run sessions on topics such as environmental awareness, legal education, and entrepreneurship.[2]

SHAWCO Education runs 13 different educational projects.


STEP tutors Maths, English and Life Skills to primary school learners in Khayelitsha. Beyond the core numeracy and literacy academic content, this project aims to instill a love of learning in its young participants. Working with grades 3-7, grade 7s graduating from the project are encouraged to join Stepping Out in their grade 8 year. It is one of the oldest of the SHAWCO Education projects, having been founded in 1990.


KENSTEP tutors Maths, English and Life Skills to primary school learners in Kensington. Similar to STEP, it incorporates as much fun and creative learning as possible. It also encourages its graduating grade 7s to enroll in SOLL in their grade 8 year.

Stepping Out

Stepping Out tutors Maths, English and Life Skills to grade 8 and 9 learners in Khayelitsha. It provides academic support during the often difficult transition from Junior to High School, while seeking to persuade the learners to consider higher education and training after High School seriously. The grade 9 learners from Stepping Out are encouraged to join SMART at the end of their academic year.

Stepping Out Live and Learn

Stepping Out Live and Learn (SOLL) tutors Maths, English and Life Skills to grade 8 and 9 learners in Kensington. With the exact same aims as Stepping Out, SOLL is a linchpin in SHAWCO's strategy of persuading learners that higher education is a viable option for their future.


Student Mentoring and All-Round Tutoring (SMART) tutors Maths and Physical Science to grade 10, 11 and 12 learners in Khayelitsha. Additional support in professional communication and career guidance are provided, in an attempt to provide learners with all of the information required to make choices concerning their studies after school.


Kensington Student Mentoring and All-Round Tutoring (SMART) tutors Maths and Physical Science to grade 10, 11 and 12 learners in Kensington. As in SMART, support is provided to ensure that all learners participating in the program are able to make as informed choice as possible about their future.


Masizame is a student project which works with a wide range of learners living in Lielieboom and St Georges children's homes. As well as providing the academic tutoring offered by other projects, special focus is put on individualised interaction with the learners.


The Arts Project runs in Manenberg, and incorporates the teaching of many different art disciplines in a structured manner.


The Sports project offers Soccer, Rugby, Cricket, Netball and Hockey coaching in Manenberg, Nyanga and Khayelitsha.


The only project to work with young adults, post-school, Masizikhulise provides training in Entrepreneurship so as to facilitate personal development and job creating in Khayelitsha and Nyanga.


Launched in 2009, the Legal Welfare Community Organisation (LAWCO) is furthering initiatives to educate the youth about human rights and the law.

Workshops have been hosted at Aloe Secondary School in Mitchell's Plain, at Lavender Hill High School in Steenberg, and at the Student Health and Welfare Centre Organisation (SHAWCO) Saturday school at UCT. This has given Grade 10 and 11 students from Athlone, Crossroads, Heideveld, Kensington, Khayelitsha, Manenberg, Mitchell's Plain and Nyanga basic legal education.[9]


Masifundisane provides tutoring in school Geography for grade 11s and 12s once a week in Khayelitsha. It also runs weekly environmental awareness workshops in schools in Khayelitsha.

Saturday School

The Saturday School Boost Program is a staff run project, which employs professional teachers to provide focused remedial Saturday teaching to two hundred grade 12 learners from across the Cape Town area. Included in those two hundred learners are the most promising learners from the student run academic projects, SMART and KenSMART. The primary goal behind the program is to provide the final academic push to disadvantaged learners to access tertiary education.


Kensington Centre on 12th Avenue

The iconic SHAWCO Kensington Community Centre was once the headquarters of the organisation, and is home to a full suite of academic projects (KenSTEP, Stepping Out Live and Learn and KenSMART). In addition, it houses the SHAWCO adult Day Care Club, providing meals-on-wheels to approximately 45 people in the area, and also houses a number of local organisations: the Jewish Women's Union crèche , a home-care training facility, a church group, a community newspaper, as well as the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape (PAWC) social services. After hours, the hall is used by a Judo club, a Ballroom Dancing club, available for hire – weddings, birthday celebrations and other occasions, and serves as a pension payout point twice a month.

Manenberg Centre

SHAWCO Manenberg Community Centre. The Performing and Visual Arts Project, taking place at the centre, involves UCT students volunteer who help local primary and secondary school learners develop communication skills and leadership qualities through art and drama. The Manenebrg Sport Project also takes place at the centre. It involves more than 100 children participating in various sporting codes with the help from UCT students' volunteers. In addition, the centre houses a local crèche, family and child support services and serves as a pension payout point.

Nyanga Centre

SHAWCO Nyanga Community Centre is home to Masizikhulise (Let us help one another grow) Project. The Nyanga Sports Project takes place at a near-by community hall. The centre also runs an Adult Day Care Club for older and disabled people, and delivers meals-on-wheels to elderly and disabled residents in the area.

Khayelitsha Centres

SHAWCO Khayelitsha K1 Community Centre is home to the Noxolo Adult Day Care Club, as well as a number of local NGOs providing family and rape counseling, working with Aids orphans and offering other family-related counseling services. SHAWCO has raised funds in the name of the late Dr Golda Selzer, to upgrade and expand the centre in order to transform it into a UCT teaching site and therapy centre, where members of the Noxolo club, as well as other Khayelitsha residents can receive occupational therapy, physiotherapy and other kinds of therapy from UCT students.

SHAWCO Khayelitsha K2 Community Centre is home to the STEP, Stepping Out, SMART, Masifundisane, Masizikhulise and Sports projects.

External links


  1. ^ a b Selzer G, Gordon H. SHAWCO: the students' health and welfare centres Organization of the University of Cape Town. SAMJ. 1963 (Jan 19); Vol. 37, pp. 58-9.
  2. ^ a b c "SHAWCO - History". SHAWCO. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Katz, D. The Students' Health and Welfare Centre (SHAWCO). British journal of medical education. 1967; 1 (3):178-182.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Lewin W. SHAWCO-GrandWest CSI Community Health Project Report 2009. SHAWCO. 2009, November 30 (unpublished)
  5. ^ "South African mob kills migrants". BBC. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  6. ^ "SA leader orders army to deploy". BBC. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  7. ^ SHAWCO's Response to Xenophobia "SHAWCO's Response to Xenophobia". SHAWCO. SHAWCO's Response to Xenophobia. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d Favish, J. 2009. The Role of Public Universities: Examining one university's response to xenophobia. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement. 2:160.
  9. ^ "Law takes its course at schools". Daily News (University of Cape Town). 26 March 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 


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