NPO in critical condition

2019-11-19 06:00
Begging hands (Pixabay)

Begging hands (Pixabay)

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While retrenchments at the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (Shawco) has placed 33 of its permanent staff members in a precarious position, the possible impact the ongoing restructuring process at the non-profit organisation (NPO) might have on vulnerable communities reliant on its services, may affect thousands.

At present Shawco’s health programme provides primary healthcare to 5 000 adults and children annually through fully equipped mobile clinics. 

The organisation has about 3 000 student volunteers run over 15 health and education projects in five Shawco centres as well as other locations around the Cape Metropolitan area. 

Notices of contemplated retrenchments were issued to all Shawco staff members on 30 August. 

In a letter dated Wednesday 6 November and addressed to the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) official Sandile Mandla, Professor Steve Reid, the interim Shawco board chair, confirmed “it will unfortunately not be possible to continue paying salaries after November”.

In response to a question from People’s Post, asking if all of the 33 staff members would be retrenched, UCT answered that the process would lead to some staff members being retrenched. 

“However, a number of part-time positions will be filled from January 2020,” it responded.

Asked who would take over the management of the NPO’s programmes, UCT said there would still be some administrative staff members to manage Shawco’s initiatives.

The university said the health programme would be managed by student volunteers and administrative staff.

In a statement released on 12 November, UCT said, Shawco would continue operating as a non-profit organisation but would reduce the level of activities according to available funding.

“Despite the current challenges, Shawco’s key activities has been continuing. All the medical activities have continued. However, the educational activities have been reduced. This is normal at this time of year when students are writing exams and winding up towards the end of the year,” the statement read.

In response to People’s Post's query on which education programmes would be kept and which would be discarded, UCT said it was too soon to determine. 

“Shawco is currently in a transition period and this process requires time to be concluded.” 

The NPO is the oldest social responsiveness arm of the UCT. It was established in 1943 by Andrew Kinnear, a UCT medical student.

Over the past 75 years, the organisation has created the space for thousands of student volunteers to engage in areas of health, education and social entrepreneurship; providing services to several communities including Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Noordhoek, Nyanga, Joe Slovo, Dunoon, Manenberg, Kensington, and Mitchell’s Plain. As a registered NPO under the Non-Profit Organisations Act of 71, it has a separate existence from UCT.

The university said, like many other NPOs, Shawco is dependent on funding from external sources, in addition to the funds provided by UCT. 

“As a result of the tough economic climate, the available funding for non-profit organisations has diminished significantly and Shawco has been affected by this too. This has led to the ongoing restructuring process.” 

In a statement, UCT said it remained fully committed to supporting the work done by Shawco. “The current situation requires an immediate response and the UCT executive leadership is committed to finding a viable and mutually beneficial solution that will ensure that the legacy of Shawco is preserved.” 

The statement concluded that UCT wished to rebuild Shawco to be a thriving student-led enterprise.

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