Candyfloss and live entertainment delighted scores of children at Manenberg Primary School on 14 May.
The youngsters were making the most of SHAWCO's Community Day in Manenberg, which kicked off celebrations of the student-run welfare organisation's 70th anniversary. SHAWCO uses one of the school's classrooms as its Manenberg Community Centre.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Crain Soudien, chairperson of the SHAWCO board of directors, told attendees that the centre was launched in the mid-2000s to coincide with SHAWCO its shifting focus to community-development work.
"We have a thriving operation here which is supported by the work of our students, and I want to really acknowledge their work, the extraordinary amount of time they spend working with young people," said Soudien.
The centre hosts the Performing and Visual Arts Projects, which involves UCT student volunteers helping primary and secondary school learners from the area develop communication and leadership skills through art and drama.
The Manenberg Sports project, which sees more than 100 children participating in various sporting codes, again under the guidance of student volunteers, is also based at the centre.
The SHAWCO Manenberg Community Centre also houses a local créche, family and child support services, serves as a pension collection point and recently opened an internet-equipped computer lab for use by pupils.
Ebrahim Kader, principal of Manenberg Primary School, hailed his school's partnership with SHAWCO, which Greer BlizzÃ¡rd, the organisation's fundraising, marketing and PR manager, described as "powerful and wonderful".
"One of the benefits of our partnership with SHAWCO is that they send students, some from overseas, to work at our school and share their expertise," said Kader. "Some of these students are studying to become psychologists, some are art students. We can tap into that expertise and make use of it.
"The children are being kept off the streets," he added. "One of the highlights of our partnership was during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when Cyril [Pelston, centre manager] provided us with free tickets to see one of those games in Cape Town at the wonderful, big stadium. We couldn't afford to buy our own tickets, and he provided us with those tickets."
While most of the youngsters soaked up football matches and the generally festive atmosphere outside, a panel discussion took place in the school's library (the size of two classrooms). Guy Lamb, director of UCT's Safety and Violence Initiative; Associate Professor Shanaaz Mathews, director of UCT's Children's Institute, and Baveena Nathoo, the Vodacom Change the World Volunteer at SHAWCO and former president of SHAWCO Education, joined Pelston on the panel. Soudien chaired proceedings.
Violence was a complex beast, argued Lamb. Winning the war against violence has proved tough, but international and South African research showed that investing in education interventions could result in safer communities.
"That's why SHAWCO is so important," said Lamb. "But, and SHAWCO has identified this, you can't really do anything if the classroom, the playground, are battlegrounds and are places where gangsters can walk freely. We need to create safe spaces."
Mathews, who worked as a SHAWCO volunteer in Manenberg as an undergraduate student in the 1980, added her insights: "The question that I asked myself last night when I was thinking about this was, '˜has the situation with the children here changed since I did a placement [with SHAWCO] here in 1985?' In all honesty, I don't think it has."
While the battle to build safe communities continues, SHAWCO pushes on to the next 70 years of community development.
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