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

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[edit]

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?[edit]

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.

Services offered[edit]

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][edit]

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)

Du Noon (in Dunoon, Milnerton)

Paediatric Clinics[edit]

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 local

student volunteers

Number of international

student volunteers

Total student

volunteer sessions

Number patients
2011[5] 251 600+ 200+ 2600+ 5,130+
2010[6] 248 644 180 2515 5,488
2009[4] 180 557 No record 1970 4,806
2008[4] 160 477 No record 2093 4,208
2007[4] 134 No record No record No record 3,596
2003[7] 115 +/- 150 No record No record 2,005
1963[3] 3 fixed sites 63% of all medical students at UCT No record No record 14,716


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

International Students Programme[edit]

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[edit]

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.

The 2010 version of the Rural Health Programme brought with it some changes: the health focus was more on screening, with students offering blood pressure, weight, glucose, HIV and pap smear testing, as well as paediatric health screening. The UCT branch of Engineers Without Borders, EWB UCT, partnered with SHAWCO to develop and install rainwater-harvesting tanks, including filtration systems, at Zithulele Hospital.[8]

Grand Ward Rounds[edit]

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[edit]

On 12 May 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.[9] 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.[10] SHAWCO responded to the needs of the people affected by this violence.[11]

SHAWCO volunteers conveyed donated clothing, food and hygiene products which were distributed to the different sites of refuge around Cape Town.[12] 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.[12]

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.[12] 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.[12]

SHAWCO Education[edit]

SHAWCO Education is a UCT student-run development programme which facilitates tutoring of school learners in previously disadvantaged communities and the focus of all projects is to help children learn. Academic subjects such as Maths, English, Science and Life Orientation are taught, as well as extra-curricular programmes. There are also several special interest projects which run sessions on topics such as environmental awareness, legal education, and entrepreneurship.[2]

SHAWCO Education runs 14 different educational projects:

Foundation Phase Projects[edit]

Little STEP[edit]

Little STEP works with Grades 1-3 in Khayelitsha at the K2 centre. It was founded in 2014 as the foundation phase project that feeds into STEP.


KenSTART works with Grades 1-3 in Kensington, Cape Town. The project began in 2015 and feeds into KenSTEP.

Little Moon[edit]

Little Moon (Nyangana) is a project which uses drama, storytelling, songs and games to make literacy come alive for Grade 1 learners at Walter Teka School in Nyanga. The lessons are bi-lingual, and the team is composed of volunteers from Nyanga and UCT. Sessions run every Wednesday from 14:30 to 16:30 at Walter Teka Primary School.

Little STAR*[edit]

The LittleSTAR* project in Manenberg was officially introduced to SHAWCO Education in 2014 as the feeder project for STAR*. The project uses fun and interactive lessons to help improve the literacy and numeracy levels of the children in Grades R-3. Play is also an important component of the project, with some sessions focused on improving the children's physical abilities such as balance and hand-eye coordination by using outdoor games and equipment.

Junior Projects[edit]


Student Tutoring Education Project (STEP) tutors Maths, English and Life Skills to around 80 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. STEP works with learners in Grades 4-7, with the Grade 7s who graduate from the project being encouraged to join Stepping Out in their Grade 8 year. It is one of the oldest of the SHAWCO Education projects and was founded in 1990.


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


Sitsaba focuses on developing a love for literacy through English and isiXhosa song, drama, games and stories. This project works with Grade 5 learners in the Nyanga area.


Sport Tutoring Art and Reading (STAR) runs in the Manenberg community. Historically an Arts project, STAR aims to teach numeracy and literacy in a creative way, to inspire learning and growth. Computers are also utilised in the learning process. The Project works with learners from Grade 4-7 and runs on a Tuesday and Friday.

Intermediate Projects[edit]

Stepping Out[edit]

Stepping Out tutors Maths, English and Life Skills to Grade 8 and 9 learners in Khayelitsha. Stepping Out participants have 3 contact hours with SHAWCO tutors over two sessions per week. This is divided between Mathematics, and English and Life Skills. An outing is also run each term, including a camp for the Grade 9 learners.

Learners from the STEP project (Grade 4 – 7) are channeled directly into the Stepping Out project (provided their high school is close enough to reach lessons on time) and Stepping Out learners are channeled into the SMART project (Grade 10 -12).


Sixty grade 8 and 9 students from three different high schools in Kensington, Cape Town are tutored in Maths, English and Life Skills on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the Kensington SHAWCO centre. With exactly the same aims as Stepping Out, KenSO is a linchpin in SHAWCO's strategy of persuading students that learning is fun and that higher education is a viable option for their future.

Senior Projects[edit]


The SHAWCO Student Mentored All Round Tutoring (SMART) project aims to provide learners in Grades 10, 11 and 12 from disadvantaged schools in Khayelitsha, who have shown academic potential and an enthusiasm for learning, the opportunity for further educational and self-development. Learners who participate in the programme take maths and physical science at school and are tutored weekly by volunteering UCT students. Apart from developing the learners academically, the project also aims to create an environment which allows the volunteers to establish mentoring relationships with the participants such that the volunteers themselves may have a holistic SHAWCO experience.


Kensington Student Mentoring and All-Round Tutoring (KenSMART) 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. KENSMART also hosts an exciting session named Tipping Point, which allows for a more dynamic approach to learning and creates the opportunity for learners to decide what they want to learn about.

Special Interest[edit]


Masizame is a student project which works with a wide range of learners from the Imizamo Yethu community in Hout Bay. As well as providing the academic tutoring offered by other projects, special focus is put on individualised interaction with the learners. The aim of this program is to enrich the lives of children both academically and socially.


LAWCO (Legal Welfare Community Organisation) is a student initiative that runs legal workshops for grade 10-12 learners in the Cape Town metropolitan area around practical aspects of the law, giving them a foundation of knowledge as well as skills to use in their day to day lives.

Workshops are run at six schools: Aloe Secondary, Princeton High, Lavender Hill High, Masiyile High, Manyano High and Thandokhulu High. Themes at these workshops include aspects of basic South African law; human rights; civil and political rights; socioeconomic rights; labour law; family law; criminal law and consumer protection.


Education Leadership[edit]

Year President Vice President
2016 Lebohang Mokoena Nadia Solomon
2015 Ruth Urson Pascal Despard
2014 Julia Norrish Cleo Mazower
2013 Steven Bourhill Senzo Hlophe
2012 Baveena Naidoo Bakang Moetse
2011 Rachel Mazower Maya Jaffer
2010 Yumna Moosa Sheree Lang
2009 Jonathan Hodgson Joanne Beckwith
2008 Jonathan Hodgson Lauren Losper
2007 Nick Friedman Dimakatso Morebudi


Kensington Centre on 12th Avenue[edit]

The iconic SHAWCO Kensington Community Centre was once the headquarters of the organisation, and is home to three academic projects (KenSTEP, Stepping Out So 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 Union of Jewish Women's 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 as a venue for Judo, ballroom dancing, a pension payout point twice a month and is also available for hire.

Manenberg Centre[edit]

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[edit]

SHAWCO Nyanga Community Centre is home to Masizikhulise (Let us help one another grow) Project. The Nyanga Sports Project takes place at a nearby 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[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ a b Selzer G, Gordon H. SHAWCO: the students' health and welfare centres Organization of the University of Cape Town. SAMJ. 1963 (19 Jan); Vol. 37, pp. 58-9.
  2. ^ a b "SHAWCO - History". SHAWCO. Retrieved 1 March 2010. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e 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 Lewin W. SHAWCO-GrandWest CSI Community Health Project Report 2009. SHAWCO. 2009, 30 November. Available online at:
  5. ^ Mendelsohn S. SHAWCO Health Annual Report 2011. SHAWCO. 2011, 1 November.
  6. ^ Mendelsohn S. SHAWCO-GrandWest CSI Community Health Project Report 2010. SHAWCO. 2010, 1 November. Available Online at:
  7. ^ SHAWCO Annual Report 2003. Available Online at:
  8. ^ "UCT Monday Paper: "Engineers show enthusiasm and craft without borders"". UCT. Retrieved 19 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "South African mob kills migrants". BBC. 12 May 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  10. ^ "SA leader orders army to deploy". BBC. 21 May 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "SHAWCO's Response to Xenophobia". SHAWCO. Archived from the original on 8 June 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  12. ^ 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.