By Halli Manolakos-Tsehisi
Today is significant for two reasons. First, we are celebrating National Workers’ Day, and I think it only apt that we applaud the tireless and selfless work our essential services and frontline health professionals have been doing over the past few weeks. They have committed themselves to the service of others, risking infection in order to maintain as much stability for our country as possible during what can only be described as a once in a lifetime occurrence. The situation we find ourselves in is by no small stretch of the imagination, unprecedented. Yet, the individuals on the front-line and behind the scenes remain committed to the greater good of society, and we salute their efforts.
The second significance is that today marks the first, albeit small, step towards an easing into an old, yet new, world. While the journey is far from over, and we are sure to have some obstacles along the way, it is important to acknowledge that we are moving forward. It does however not mean that we can in any way let our guard down, inevitably undoing the progress made thus far. Our resolute commitment to physical distancing and social solidarity, while difficult and uncomfortable, should remain our primary focus. This remains incredibly difficult considering the effect on our economy and the lives of hundreds of thousands of marginalised individuals who are most vulnerable. We therefore applaud our president, the Honourable Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, for the difficult decisions he has had to make. It takes great leadership to make difficult decisions.
As a foundation, we have implemented a multitude of measures to support our scholars, families, parents and students towards mitigating the inevitable effects the new ‘normal’ is having on us all. At our partner school, Disa Primary School in Hout Bay, through the leadership team, we have recommitted funds to mobilise our staff and network of partners to distribute food parcels for all our families. We firmly believe that learning cannot happen on an empty stomach and especially so at the primary-education level. The initiative currently supports 750 families per week, no small feat considering that this is outside of their primary mandate!
As SBF, we have also implemented a support initiative for our families and students who have indicated the need for it. Multiple iterations of the plan were brainstormed, and a forward-looking approach has been adopted, enabling empowered decision-making and immediate, individualised impact. Additionally, contingency plans have been put in place to ensure online learning is enabled, in line with plans executed by our university partners and bursary-peers towards sustainable outcomes as we await guidance from the Western Cape Department of Health and the resumption of teaching in whatever form it takes.
We have also launched a targeted psychosocial support campaign, with guidelines, tips, support structures and contact details to our beneficiaries. Our High School- and Post-Secondary- teams remain in constant contact with scholars, students and alumni, and our psychosocial team remains available to beneficiaries in need of help. This comprehensive campaign serves to both educate and guide scholars and their parents during this uncertain time, and is an essential component of our holistic approach to beneficiary well-being.
As we look towards the imminent future, we can only work with the information at hand; plans need to be adaptable, scalable and most importantly, sustainable. I would like to thank all members of my team, our partner schools, tertiary institutions, network of service providers and other like-minded organisations for their dedication during this period of flux. Most importantly, our efforts would be impossible without the generous support of our founders, Dr and Mrs Struengmann, which is enabling us to do the work we do and help change the lives of all our beneficiaries. It remains trying, but we are ready for the next challenge. Together we will weather this storm, and without a doubt in my mind, triumph and emerge stronger than before.
Keep safe, wash your hands, keep your distance and most importantly, know that we are at your side.