The need in Bonnievale:
Based on the CEMIS statistics of August 2017, more than 1000 children from Bonnievale and rural surrounding farm schools would have been in need of secondary school education facilities by 2022. Many of these children grow up in poor households and the lack of education opportunities make them lose hope at an early age. Lack of hope shapes identity. Brittle self-worth leads to insecurity and weak character which leads to children derailing and missing their potential purpose in life.
A vision was dropped in the hearts of the people from Bonnievale who formed a team to pursue the vision to heal a total community by creating the Jakes Gerwel Technical High School, a modern two-stream technical school with cutting edge e-learning facilities with a master plan for 1200 learners. Prof Jakes Gerwel was a resilient mediator and peacemaker and the wonderful unity of this team of different backgrounds would have made him proud. Although diverse the common denominator in them all is a positive transformative spirit to heal South Africa from community level, from its roots.
The Jakes Gerwel Technical High School will serve the children of the Bonnievale community who are 90% Afrikaans and 75% Coloured, 11% Black, 11% White and predominantly of Christian faith. The low-fee school will be fully inclusive to anyone from any background.
JGE Funding Trust:
Any private or corporate contributions / donations will be channelled to the school via the JGE Funding Trust. The trust is set up as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO NO 930054635) and Article 18A legal entity that ensures:
•Tax relief on all contributions / donations and
•Will also provide the donator with 100% BEE Social Development spend recognition.
The Trustees of the Funding Trust are:
•Curren Kuhn (BIng) – Electrical and Electronic Engineer. Technical and Project expert. Born and raised in Bonnievale.
•Philip Jonker (B.Sc Agric) – Fourth generation owner of Weltevrede Wine Estate, businessman and born and living in Bonnievale.
•Wilhelm de Wet (B.Com (Hons), FIA, FASSA) – Qualified Actuary and Bonnievale resident.
The JGE Funding Trust was formed. A minimum of R55 million Rand had to be found from the community and private sector, and the three trustees were tasked to not only raise the funds, but also to manage the building project and to commit to help govern the school in the long run. Added to a long list of practically impossibilities, was the fact that there was a timeline set of less than two years before the school had to be operational. In faith the team took up the challenge.
Hope shapes identity:
Creating opportunities for education of excellence gives hope. Hope shapes identity. A healthy self-worth leads to secure teenagers, strong character and individuals reaching their potential and purpose in life.
The Jakes Gerwel Technical High School is established to be on par with the top private schools of the country with top facilities and leadership.
An 8 lane athletics course, three sports fields and five tennis/net ball courts are being developed. 14 technical workshops and a conference hall for character development is being constructed amongst vineyards that form part of the school grounds.
Partnership, contribution and governance:
JGT is a collaboration between the JGE Funding Trust an the Western Cape Education Department.
The WCED contributes 40% of the establishment cost, while private funding through the JGE Funding Trust cover 60% of the costs.
The WCED has approved R34m for the development of JGT and funds teachers allocations and norms and standards as per no fee government school.
The JGE Funding Trust has already raised the equivalent of R41m in cash or kind, mostly as land, and professional pro bono work.
Regarding governance the JGE Funding Trust will have 50% voting power on the school governing body in order to ensure JGT is run well and the private investment managed properly.
JGT Character development and mentorship:
Most learners come from under-resourced backgrounds, fatherless homes and broken family structures. Secure character is what made Prof Jakes Gerwel a world changer behind the scenes. In this school our first priority is to invest in the character of the learners through mentorship. We do not only want to broaden their vision. We want to broaden their shoulders too. We believe in this vision to heal South Africa from its roots. We do not run or hide from negativity. We thrive within brokenness because this is what we are called for, because we are here to heal, to make a difference. The spirit within us is a positive, transformative one to tell good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to those who are tied down by hopelessness, to restore sight to those without vision, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim a new beginning. In order to be successful in developing learners academically and technically, we need to give more individual attention and encouragement. For this reason JGT appoints more teachers than the norm, to spread the teaching load, to form a strong team of both experience and young energy and to allocate time specifically for character development. A person like the late Prof Jakes Gerwel remains an inspirational role model, the son of farm workers who became a great South African leader and confidant of Mr Nelson Mandela, whilst through his secure character and powerful humility he never felt the need to draw the limelight on himself. His character will inspire the learners of this school who will become the leaders of the next generation.
A Final Word:
Prof. Jakes Gerwel was supportive of vocational training and was one of the advocates to rethink education. Herewith an extract of the last interview with public intellectual Jakes Gerwel before he passed away in 2012. - by John Higgins, Mail & Guardian:
Why do you think education is in such a bad state in the country, despite the attempts to deal with it?
“I think this is largely a question of management. We had a lot of things to undo in apartheid education. But I also think we went "fancy" in too many ways. Take, for instance, outcomes-based education. It is a good thing, if you have the infrastructure, if you have the material to do it. There was an unplanned method of tackling challenges and we just do not have the human capacity to manage it.
Too many school principals are not able to manage schools and teachers are not attending to the basic things that they should be attending to. There is a massive failure of management. And, yes, we did a couple of silly things — I was Cabinet secretary at the time — like closing the teacher training and other colleges and ending the apprenticeship system, which has totally fallen by the wayside. We got a lot of systemic things wrong.”
Is it fixable?
“It has to be fixable.”
JGT a possible blue print for SA:
JGT is a first for South Africa. Never before has a community worked together on such a scale to collaborate with government to create a school of such a standard and comprehensive offering of both technical vocational and technical occupational curricula.
The Western Cape Minister of Education, Min. Debbie Schäfer, announced the school in parliament and described it as “awe-inspiring”.
Amongst the many initial comments of “But this can’t be done” and “Impossible” and “You are crazy”, we have yet to meet the person who has not received this vision with great positivity. The vision requires an incredible budget and everything will be established on an incredibly short time line, whilst we expect extraordinary unity of everyone involved to work together to realise this dream. However, in retrospect all the seemingly impossible factors will simply give depth to this beautiful story of hope.
In the words of curriculum expert Prof Gustav Niebuhr: “What you are doing is the answer for South Africa.”
The community worked together:
Vision sparks hope. Positivity is infectious. Sacrifice is inspirational. When we lead with a can-do attitude and show our commitment by personal sacrifice others will follow. By the end of August 2017 the team had raised more than R41m in contributions, mainly in the form of free or discounted professional services. The architect, civil engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, land surveyor, attorney, land use consultant and project manager were all willing to sacrifice professional fees and to work pro bono towards this vision. Local people from the community offered their time and sweat after hours to take out vineyards in order to stay ahead of fourteen earth moving machinery offered free of charge by a local earth moving company who was asked to move 25000 cubic meters of rocky soil. Shoulder to shoulder people from all ages and cultures in Bonnievale joined forces to work after hours in inspiring harmony. Private donations were made, farmers and businesses bought in, trusts gave money and local building contractors worked together on very favourable terms and are willing to sacrifice profitability for this vision.
Impossible – difficult – done:
Jan 2016 – The vision was presented to the WCED
Oct 2016 – In faith vineyards were cleared
Feb 2017 – 150+ learners enrolled
May 2017 - Principal appointed
June 2017 – Contractors appointed with 6 months to go
Sep 2017 – Painting of building starts
Currently – ahead of schedule