Creating a better future

for rural children

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SPW Contributors

Sanlam Private Wealth

One would be hard pressed to find a community more committed to creating a better future for disadvantaged rural children than that of Bonnievale. In the short space of just over two years, the people of this Cape Winelands town raised more than R50 million to build a school, and in January 2018 the Jakes Gerwel Technical High School was ready to welcome 240 learners from the local community.

‘You’re crazy.’ ‘It can’t be done.’ ‘It’s impossible.’ These were some of the sceptical reactions when the residents of Bonnievale decided to tackle the high school education crisis in this rural area by joining hands across racial and socio-economic divides and setting out to build their own educational facility on a par with the best schools in South Africa.

A little more than two years later, the naysayers have been silenced. On a 12-hectare piece of land now stands the Jakes Gerwel Technical High School – a two-stream technical institution with cutting-edge e-learning and sports facilities. Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer has gone as far as calling it ‘the miracle school’.

The JGE Funding Trust was formed as operating partner to govern the school in collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). Trustees are Wilhelm de Wet, actuary recruiter at SA3, Curren Kühn, electrical engineer at Motla Consulting, and Philip Jonker, owner and winemaker of Weltevrede Wine Estate. ‘The vision of our community was executed in record time,’ Philip says. ‘2016 was a year of planning and preparation. In June 2017 construction started. Less than six months later, a magnificent school building opened its doors to 240 Grade 8 and 9 learners from the local community.’

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A VISION MATERIALISES

How did it all happen in such a short time? Local farmworkers and township residents invested their time and labour free of charge, helping to remove vines and prepare the land, while a local architect and civil, mechanical and electrical engineers waived professional fees. An earth-moving company offered its equipment and farmers in the valley contributed thousands of litres of diesel and equipment collectively. ‘Shoulder to shoulder, local people from all backgrounds worked together to see the vision materialise,’ Philip says.

All contributions towards building the new high school are matched by the WCED in a 60:40 ratio. More than R50 million has been raised through contributions from businesses and residents of Bonnievale and the surrounding valley, backed by R34 million from the WCED.

The new school combines academic subjects with technical, vocational and agricultural subjects, while also providing a more technical occupational curriculum in its modern workshops. The no-fee school is inclusive to all and custom-designed for the local community to provide the best possible future for the area’s youth.

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SHAPING YOUNG ADULTS

‘The vision is to shape young adults with strong values – entrepreneurs and leaders who will change the world they live in. Many of South Africa’s rural children grow up in poor households and the lack of education opportunities make them lose hope at an early age. At our school, there’s a strong focus on restored self-worth and character development through mentorship,’ Philip adds.

The school was named after the late Professor Jakes Gerwel, the son of farm workers who became a highly respected academic and South African leader. ‘Professor Gerwel desired to bring high-quality education to all, and his character will inspire the learners of this school, who will become the leaders of the next generation.’

The current phase of construction is for Grade 10 to 12 classrooms, technical workshops, sports fields and other facilities for a capacity of 600 learners with the option to expand to 1 200 in future.

Watch a short video clip of the story of the Jakes Gerwel Technical High School, and hear Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer talk about the school here.

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"This inspirational story resonates with us and echoes our belief that the right combination of dedication, skill, inspiration and perseverance can result in the creation of something unique and special that’ll stand the test of time. It’s inspired us to such an extent that we’ve initiated a donation drive among our staff."

ALWYN VAN DER MERWE - Director of Investments

All donations are managed via the JGE Funding Trust, registration number IT001285/2016(C) and exemption reference number PBO 930054635. Should you wish to make a donation, banking details are:

Bank: Absa
Account name: JGE Funding Trust
Account type: Cheque
Branch code: 632005
Account number: 4089969306

For more information, contact Wilhelm de Wet on 082 823 9978 or at trust@jgt.co.za

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