Change the world


It was a cold, rainy Friday morning. A group of women braved the unfriendly Nelson Mandela Bay weather to gather at their children’s primary schools in Zwide to receive some much-needed food relief.

“At least I don’t have to stress about what to put together for supper tonight,” said Nomzamo Ndaba*, who is looking after eight children,  as she excitedly  left Ntyatyambo Primary School.

She said the previous few weeks had been particularly hard as the COVID-19 global pandemic has worsened her family’s plight, making it even difficult to secure the “piece jobs” that, together with the child support grants, helped put food on the table and clothes on the children’s backs.

“I don’t have a job. I’m looking after my  late siblings’ children. The older ones help out when they get those odd jobs here and there, but even those have been scarce lately because of what is happening,” she said.

Nomsimelelo Lungu echoed her sentiments, saying the pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions have added to an already difficult situation.

Reflecting on the pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions she said: “It is an ongoing struggle, always having to think how you can make the little we have stretch as far as possible because unemployment is a big problem. We are not working and struggle to make ends meet,” she said.

“What has made matters worse is that now everyone is at home all the time. The children who used to eat at school with the school nutrition programme no longer can, so you must see to breakfast lunch and supper, whereas then it was a matter of thinking what to prepare for when they come back from school and supper.

“We have applied for the R350 [unemployment grant], but nothing has come of that yet. Also, it seems food has become more expensive, which is really not helping the situation. What is one to do when things are like this?”

Nomzamo and Nomsimelelo’s plight is that of millions of people across the country, who continue to be battered by the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality – which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has proven to be a socioeconomic issue as well as a health one.

Hunger and food security in communities have emerged as critical challenges as the pandemic and accompanying lockdown restrictions continue to have dire consequences on large and small-scale economic activity.

Nelson Mandela University recently established a Convergence Fund, which has raised nearly R200 000 since launching last month.

The Fund is so named as it resonates with our values and talks to people coming together to a central point to help solve pressing societal issues.  It is conceptualised as a long-term fund, which could support the University’s important community engagement initiatives on an ongoing basis. 

The Fund is intended to unlock the collective agency of the University family, including friends and partners of the institution.  It is through the generous donations made to the Fund that the University is able to contribute to the alleviation of the impact of COVID-19 on our immediate communities.

The first round of disbursement to identified communities was done earlier this month, in partnership with a number of organisations in the city. The University collaborated with the Missionvale Care Centre to source, pack and deliver food parcels, cloth masks and COVID-19 related education material to communities located around Garrett and Ntyatyambo Primary Schools, Yokhuselo Haven, Yethu Safe House and Phaphamani Rape Crisis.

In addition, financial contributions were made to Ekuphumleni Old Age Home, in Zwide, and Gelvan Park Frail Care Centre, in the Northern Areas.

Rebecca Molefe, 69, expressed her sincere gratitude to the Fund for the assistance, saying it would help her and her grandchildren.

“I cannot thank you enough. Almost every day, we see people coming home with food parcels or some other form of assistance and we wonder ‘what about us?’” she said.

“It feels good to be acknowledged and I pray that God blesses all those who helped make this possible.”

Dr Bruce Damons, who leads the Fund’s disbursement committee that comprises representatives of the University and civil society, said the partnership is underpinned by the principle of collaboration in service of society.

“The learning that emerges from each cycle of disbursement brings to the fore the principles that should guide us towards understanding the best way to respond going forward,” he said.

Those wishing to donate to the Fund can visit the dedicated webpage for the various payment options.

Ms Rebecca Molefe (second from right) receives a parcel from Nelson Mandela University’s Bruce Damons, with Mongameli Peter (far left) and the principal of Ntyantyambo Primary School looking on.

* Not her real name, as per speaker’s request.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777