Graduation for SHAWCO Saturday School learners

09 October 2018 | Story Sarah Middleton. Photos Robyn Walker. Read time 3 min.
These enthusiastic drummers were among the entertainers at the special event to recognise learners who have worked hard in the Saturday School programme.
These enthusiastic drummers were among the entertainers at the special event to recognise learners who have worked hard in the Saturday School programme.

A graduation ceremony was held by SHAWCO (Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation) over the weekend to recognise learners who have completed the Saturday School Programme, and to award prizes to the top achievers.

The ceremony, which also acknowledged SHAWCO’s educators and donors, was attended by the Provincial Minister of Education Debbie Schafer, as well as Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

SHAWCO’s Saturday School Programme is an educational intervention that engages with more than 200 grade 12 learners from 42 schools in Cape Town’s disadvantaged communities. The programme provides learners with opportunities to improve their academic skills in preparation for tertiary studies, and to develop confidence in their own abilities.

SHAWCO started the programme at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2008 to give learners access to facilities and resources that are not available at their own schools. A key factor in the programmeʼs success is that the learners are transported to the university for the extra lessons, which allows them to experience campus life.

Speaking to the learners, Zille stressed the importance of education in the growth and success of South Africa.

The top three learners in the 2018 Saturday School cohort are (from left) Masooda Benjamin (third), Malissa Clarissa Julius (first) and Abdul Taalieb Isaacs (second).

“Education will remain the top priority because it is the door that opens all others,” she said.

Successful living

“All that government can do is try to secure the best opportunities for you … All of you here have been given help and opportunities to open the next door in your life, but you have to open it.”

She listed four requirements for a successful life: telling the truth, taking responsibility, learning to defer gratification, and being courageous.

Schafer emphasised the relationship between work and success.

“There is only one place where success comes before work – in the dictionary,” she said.

She told the learners that their current circumstances do not define their future – unless they let them.

“[In] government it is our role to provide opportunities, but people also need to take those opportunities.”

She also reminded the learners that perseverance pays off.

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

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Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO)


The Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) runs various health and education programmes. Approximately 2 000 UCT students are involved.

The community partnership and social entrepreneurship programmes, that address inequality, are managed by 32 full-time and 5 part-time professional staff.

Operating in the Western and Eastern Cape, the health programme provides primary healthcare to 5 000 adults and children (annually) close to their homes, with fully equipped mobile clinics.

The education programme gives academic support and homework assistance to 1 300 learners weekly with structured education projects that help improve the academic ability of learners.


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