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.

Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO)
FoundedJuly 1943
FounderAndrew Kinnear, Golda Selzer
TypeStudent-run NGO
Registration no.NPO 002-830
FocusHealth, Education, Social Entrepreneurship
Area served
Cape Town metropolitan area
Interim Director
Judith Cornell
Jenna Smith (Health), Jaymo Reynolds (Education)
Zi Yang He (Health), Chad Damons & Lesedi Mokgobi (Education)

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 3000 student volunteers running over 15 health and education projects in five SHAWCO centres as well as other locations around the Cape Metropolitan area.

SHAWCO is divided into two 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 (UCT) 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 Graça 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 HealthEdit

The free clinics run by SHAWCO rely on volunteer medical and allied health science students in all years of study and qualified doctors.[1]

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 offeredEdit

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.

Communities Served:
Monday: Tuesday: Wednesday:
Newrest (in Gugulethu)

Simthandile (in Khayelitsha)

Barcelona (in Gugulethu)

Masiphumelele (in Noordhoek)

Brown's Farm (in Philippi)

Imizamo Yethu (in Hout Bay)

Hangberg (in Hout Bay)


Paediatric clinicsEdit

The Saturday morning paediatric clinic alternates between Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg, both in Hout Bay, and Manenberg.[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%), gastrointestinal disorders (14.9%), orthopaedic and rheumatological complaints (9.6%) and sexually transmitted diseases (5.3%).[4]

Additional projectsEdit

International Students ProgrammeEdit

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 three-week vacation, adding another three weeks to SHAWCO's services.[4]

Rural Health ProgrammeEdit

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 five 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 roundsEdit

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 attacks on migrants, May 2008Edit

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 nine clinics to sites of refuge around the Cape Peninsula, treating over 600 people.[12]

SHAWCO EducationEdit

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]


Education LeadershipEdit

Year President Vice President
2021 Jaymo Reynolds Lesedi Mokgobi
2020 Raeesa Mathews Mbasa Gosa
2019 Eva Da Costa Declan Dyer
2018 Kaylin Patterson Sukayna Bassier
2017 Julian M. Siebert Meshanya Naidoo
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

Health LeadershipEdit

Year President Vice President
2021 Jenna Smith Zi Yang He
2020 Sana Salduker Robyn Kamau
2019 Danielle Hugo Peace Francis
2018 James van Duuren Behnazir Mohamed
2017 Melissa Kube James van Duuren


  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. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  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.