The thirteenth year of operation for the Singita Community Culinary School (SCCS) at Singita Kruger National Park was undoubtedly its most challenging yet. The disruption of a national lockdown, the difficulties of learning from home and the strain on resources caused by a sharp decline in donations placed enormous pressure on one of our flagship community partnership programmes in South Africa.
However, despite the stress and hardship wrought by this year, we are absolutely delighted that our class of 2020 not only managed to complete their curriculum and sit their final exams, but each and every one of them has passed and will graduate successfully from the course.
SPONSOR A STUDENT IN THE CLASS OF 2021
Your sponsorship will cover tuition, uniforms, equipment, ingredients, transport and a monthly stipend at a cost of ZAR100k. Alternatively, you can make a contribution to the SCCS Expansion Fund, which will enable us to offer this life-changing opportunity to more inspiring young people from the local community. Find out more here or donate now using the button below.
The Singita Community Culinary School is a unique programme designed to contribute to the talent pool for the South African hospitality industry – including the Singita lodges! – while also supporting the local community. Only a very small percentage of applicants are accepted every year and the successful candidates will go on to complete a rigorous, Singita-crafted professional culinary course that is internationally accredited, producing an annual group of up-and-coming commis chefs with highly sought-after skills and strong employment prospects. Under normal circumstances, learning takes place in the state-of-the-art kitchen and demonstration studio at Singita Lebombo Lodge, where the students undertake both the theory and practical elements of the course. This is followed by invaluable hands-on experience in the five Singita lodge kitchens in South Africa.
The unfolding of the global pandemic brought with it a unique set of challenges for the SCCS students: not only would lockdown force them to adapt to an all-new learning environment at home but they would have to do so with a disrupted class schedule, limited access to ingredients and equipment, and, like many of us, the added complication of interruptions from other family members, unreliable internet connections and digital-only interaction with classmates.
The Singita Lowveld Trust, our conservation partner in South Africa and the organisation that oversees the SCCS, sought to bridge the gap by providing students with data bundles and internet connectivity to allow them to proceed with their curriculum, while Chef Skills Developer, Thys Taljaard, conducted regular online check-ins with each learner. These one-on-one support sessions helped the team assess each student’s progress, identify where they might need extra assistance and, perhaps most importantly, maintain morale and motivation.
Once the strictest level of lockdown came to end in South Africa and the students were permitted to return to class in situ, Thys and the other course facilitators devised a series of health and hygiene protocols that would allow classes to safely resume. Working in groups and in rotation, the students completed a series of additional theory and practical lessons before focusing on revision ahead of the final practical. Their 100% success rate in passing these exams is testament to their drive and dedication, as well as the extraordinary commitment of Thys and his team, who would not allow their futures to be derailed by an unforeseen global health crisis.
Although the employment landscape for hospitality professionals has shifted profoundly with the events of this year, the students remain positive and optimistic about the future. They are currently engaged in work experience in the Singita lodges to help ease the transition to permanent employment, once these opportunities become more readily available to them. Despite it all, the Singita Lowveld Trust remains committed to doubling the number of students in the annual intake through the SCCS Expansion Fund and continuing to sponsor the tuition fees, uniforms, equipment, ingredients, transport and a monthly stipend for every single learner – an impossible task if it were not for the kindness and generosity of our guests and donors.
SPONSOR A STUDENT IN THE CLASS OF 2021
It currently costs the Singita Lowveld Trust ZAR100k/~USD7000 for each SCCS student scholarship. These costs are largely funded by contributions from guests, but the impact of global travel restrictions this year has severely compromised the Trust’s usual revenue streams. Please consider sponsoring a student, either partially or in full, making a donation to the SCCS Expansion Fund, or buying our Singita cookbook this festive season. Your donation will help the Singita Lowveld Trust give the aspiring young chefs in neighbouring communities a brighter future.