Phelophepa Project

The Phelophepa train, meaning ‘good, clean health’ is a result of our partnership with the Transnet Foundation. The train visits some of the poorest areas in South Africa and our students have the opportunity to deliver first rate health care to those who need it the most.

Our aim is to be a university for the common good. Our partnership with Transnet Foundation, an organisation with a pioneering approach to health and social justice allows us to support the Foundation’s ambition to take accessible primary healthcare by rail to hundreds of thousands of people living in rural poverty across South Africa.

Our Optometry students from the School of Health and Life Sciences have the opportunity for placement on the Phelophepa healthcare train project which provides healthcare by rail to South Africa’s neediest communities.

It has gone by so quickly – challenging, but enjoyable and very rewarding! We’ve had a busy week; I am getting quicker at testing..... They call me Sisterdoctor and it’s wonderful when I put a reading add in and suddenly they can see; they gasp with amazement and are delighted to tell me it’s clear!

GCU optometry student on a Phelophepa placement.

The project won the United Nations Public Service Award in 2008 and has gone from strength to strength, from a three-carriage eye clinic to an 18-carriage state-of-the-art mobile healthcare provider.

Our students, becoming true global citizens, share the skills they have learned with volunteers, and enhance their practice through experience of working with communities, treating up to 100 patients a day.

The Phelophepa train operates for 40 weeks each year, supporting over 360,000 patients, and we are very proud to be part of this crucial healthcare service.

In the poorest parts of South Africa, a child’s life is a series of “ifs”. If a child is better nourished, if he can get healthcare, if she can have an earlier diagnosis; they may have a brighter future. Phelophepa is designed to address some of these ‘ifs’.

Dr Lynette Coetzee
Senior Manager of Health at the Transnet Foundation and Project Manager of the Phelophepa healthcare train