SHAWCO steps up after Khayelitsha fire

26 October 2018 | Story Sarah Middleton. Photos Brenton Geach. Read time 4 min.
SHAWCO members deliver their busload of donations to the people left homeless by the recent devastating Khayelitsha fire.
SHAWCO members deliver their busload of donations to the people left homeless by the recent devastating Khayelitsha fire.

The devastating fire that raged through Khayelitsha on Saturday, 20 October caused the death of one person and the displacement of around 4 000.

The Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) was swift to respond to the need for relief, and was able to provide essential items such as clothing, shoes, blankets, food and stationery.

Also included in the delivery on Thursday were workbooks for grade 10 to 12 learners, which were most welcome given that the matrics have already started writing their final examinations. All the relief items were delivered to the Social Justice Coalition in Khayelitsha for redistribution.

Selmarie Kenneth, senior administrator in SHAWCO’s Academic Interventions Unit, initiated the donation drive.

“I saw the fire on the news on Saturday,” she said.

“Judging from what I saw, people had nothing left. It came to me that we still had some blankets and shoes that were donated to SHAWCO earlier this year.”

SHAWCO steps up after Khayelitsha fire
Some of the SHAWCO team meet residents busy rebuilding their homes and their lives in Khayelitsha.

She asked Gavin Joachims, SHAWCO director, if they could donate what they had in stock.

“Gavin said it was a great idea, and that we must do more.”

Joachims said SHAWCO brought together all its different agencies to provide all the assistance possible.

“We had a huge response, from our staff internally, and also from our donors and the public at large.”

What started out as a modest donation quickly grew, and the SHAWCO bus set out for Khayelitsha packed with relief items.


“A lot of people are sleeping in a church. We need more donations, especially mattresses and blankets, and more building materials.”

Matric exams disrupted

At the shared offices of the Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education organisations, there was a study group of grade 12 students who had been displaced by the fire. The SHAWCO team delivered books, shoes and blankets to the learners, as well as school shoes for their younger siblings.

“These donations will really help, especially the grade 12s, who we are worried about. They don’t have ID books, stationery or calculators to study,” said Mtsikie Dlulani, head of the Western Cape division of Equal Education.

Learners as young as grade R are also in need of clothes and shoes so that they can return to school, she added.

“We as Equal Education, along with SHAWCO and other organisations, want to make sure that whatever happens, we can assist the community so that it doesn’t affect the future of young people in this country.”

Rebuilding after the fire

At the site of the fire, although construction of new dwellings is already under way, there were reminders of the devastation everywhere in the form of burnt timber, blackened corrugated iron and a blanket of ash covering the ground.

SHAWCO steps up after Khayelitsha fire
The donation included workbooks for grade 10 to 12 learners left homeless as they begin writing their end-of-year exams.

“Although many families have received materials to rebuild their homes, they haven’t stayed in their homes,” said Dlulani.

“A lot of people are sleeping in a church. We need more donations, especially mattresses and blankets, and more building materials.”

Declan Dyer, vice-president of SHAWCO Education urged people to continue donating.

“People have lost everything, so every little bit helps.”

The day following the SHAWCO delivery, UCT’s Properties and Services department coordinated the collection of donated goods from across the campus, before transporting the items for delivery to the Khayelitsha fire station.

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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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