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Forging human solidarity 2 October 2020

Safeguarding our children's future

Piloting a new system to protect children

By Zanele Twala, CEO of Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation  

The onset of COVID-19 was an interesting challenge for those of us working in the education space. The biggest lesson we learnt is  how important it is to innovate quickly if we are to continue supporting our beneficiaries.  

For example, there was recently a court order requiring government to allow early childhood development centres to open, but parents are not sending their children back to school. This means some children might not have access to the things they were getting from the centres, such a food, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. To close the gap – in collaboration with three other major funders – we decided to pilot a digital voucher project.  

The digital voucher is given to the parents and is for food at outlets such as Pick ‘n Pay and Shoprite. We are piloting this system to support children while they are at home. The programme will run for the next three to six months and we are hoping that we will be able to use this to demonstrate impact to the government and encourage viable solutions for the early childhood development sector to ensure its sustainability.  

The system, which has been successfully deployed, will demonstrate the modalities and systems that can be leveraged for much-needed solutions. The digital voucher system ensures that the money goes directly to the beneficiary, whether that’s the childhood development practitioner who's looking after five or 10 children in their early learning centre, or directly to the child at home that needs to be fed on a monthly basis.  

The early days of the pandemic 

At the start of the national lockdown, we developed an online partner survey to get a sense of what challenges they were facing and how we could help by mitigating the impact of COVID-19. Working with a total of 16 non-profit organisations (NPOs), our main concern was our beneficiaries and how best to support them through our partners despite the additional challenges that emerged.  

We became more than just a funding partner, but one that is truly in touch with the ecosystem in which it operates. The approach was aligned to the Tutuwa Foundation’s mission to inspire and support the growth and development of young people so that they can reach their full potential.

A major challenge was that when we did our budget last year as an organisation, we didn't foresee this. The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 meant that on a regular basis, there were differences of opinion in board meetings, but because quick action was required, consensus on items had to be reached and solutions had to be sustainable.

The one highlight from my experience over the past few months is that while we have our titles, our knowledge base, and our skills, when something like this hits, it really makes you realise that there is no expert in this field. Even with all our risk planning and risk mitigation strategies, there was nothing planned for a pandemic on this scale – you can never stop learning.