UCT medical volunteer organisation to cut back activities after funding cuts

The University of Cape Town. (Gallo images, Getty images)
The University of Cape Town. (Gallo images, Getty images)

The Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (Shawco) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) is set to cut back on some of its work after the institution reduced funding in October.

The university announced in a statement last week that Shawco would continue to provide its normal range of medical activities on the Cape Flats, but certain educational activities would be reduced.

Shawco has more than 3 000 student volunteers, but the number has dropped in recent years, placing the programme on a short list for UCT's tightening budget.

The organisation lost several members of its leadership after the cutbacks, leaving university officials and students unsure of its operating status.

"The current situation at Shawco requires an immediate response, and the executive leadership is committed to finding a viable solution that will ensure that its legacy is preserved," said UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola.

Shawco has been operating for more than 75 years, providing free medical services to under-served communities in Cape Town. During apartheid, the organisation became well-known for providing medical services to protesters during conflicts with the police.

Today, Shawco runs 15 health and education projects across the Cape Metropole.

UCT medical students work at mobile clinics to provide services like screenings, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and preventative care.

The educational programmes are designed to better community understanding of health, wellness, and medicine, as well as reduce stigma toward diseases like HIV and tuberculosis.

These are the programmes that will be reduced over the summer holidays.

GroundUp contacted several members of Shawco's executive board for answers, including CEO Crain Soudien, to no avail.

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