Symphonia for South Africa’s COVID-19 response: adaptive, responsive and attuned to the needs of its community

When the national lockdown in South Africa was first declared in March 2020, we embarked on a range of new activities in response to some of our community’s most pressing needs

Emergency food relief

Many of the nine million children who depend on the government-funded National School Nutrition Programme for their nutritional needs were left hungry when schools closed due to the lockdown. Moved by the gravity of the situation, CEO of SSA Louise van Rhyn, initiated the Food 4 Hungry Children project to capture data on the food needs of learners and their families from a network of over 1,000 school principals who are part of the PfP community. Through collaborations with Pick n Pay, FoodForward SA, the Solidarity Fund and many other organisations, thousands of vulnerable families have received food parcels.

Read more about SSA’s food relief efforts here:

Research to help prevent school job losses

A research survey led by SSA’s Knowledge Management and Monitoring and Evaluation Lead, Dr Magali von Blottnitz revealed that many schools have experienced a dramatic loss of income from school fees, voluntary contributions and fundraising efforts during lockdown. Most principals in under-resourced schools expressed the worry that they would run out of funds to pay the salaries of teachers and support staff who are not employed by the state and that this would lead to retrenchments and further overcrowding. Additional research by Dr von Blottnitz shed light on possible sources of funding, including the Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS). We have helped our principals (as well as small businesses in school communities) to understand how to access support from the scheme and to keep paying their employees amid cash-flow constraints. Many principals have thanked us for this guidance which has effectively enabled them to avoid retrenchments.

Read more about this research here:

Support for principals

We have created and maintained a number of platforms on which our principals and business leaders can connect, learn, share information and experience support.

Supporting technological proficiency that allows our learning process facilitators, Principals, Business Leaders and Leadership Circles to remain actively engaged has been our top priority.

To support educators in their difficult task of facilitating remote learning, we have made available a myriad of resources on the knowledge management platform A Better Africa. We have also run a series of workshops to enable our principals and business leaders to make use of these resources.

In addition, we have also hosted a series of webinars with the aim of providing emotional and practical support to our principals, business leaders and implementing team as well as equipping them with the skills to cope with the challenges that COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated.

Virtual delivery of the PfP Programme

The Symphonia team is used to working virtually and has found it natural to use various online platforms as a means of interacting with our community. For business partners and especially principals, though, managing the transition to virtual connection has required a lot of readiness-building. As a result of much effort by the team, the following has happened across the country:

  • Circle launches, coaching, triads (3-way meetings between the partners and their learning process facilitator) and Community of Practice sessions are taking place remotely using video-conferencing applications.
  • Some Time to Think and Community Building workshops have also taken place virtually, and the first Flawless Consulting workshop is now in progress.

We have been encouraged by the degree of engagement and many positive responses received from members of our community, and the willingness of some principals and business leaders, particularly those in outlying areas, to embark on a steep learning curve to build the IT skills required to participate in these virtual sessions.

Looking to the future

Symphonia for SA remains committed to building on the power of collaboration and the ‘can-do’ spirit that has been generated through this crisis. We also remain committed to extending and cementing our support to our partners. 

30 November -1, 00:00