Jakes Gerwel Technical High School teaches in-demand skills, aiming to increase learner employment opportunities following graduation.
Jakes Gerwel Technical High School
Created and built by members of the community for its own learners, the Jakes Gerwel Technical High School offers a curriculum focused on valuable skills that match local employment needs – further equipping its youth for the future.
A Journey Towards Empowerment and Youth Development
Bonnievale, a small town in South Africa’s Western Cape, is on a mission to transform its community through education. Jakes Gerwel Technical High School is a cornerstone of this transformation, a community-driven institution that provides a curriculum that is informed by local needs – designed to equip learners for in-demand employment opportunities.
The high school began as a dream in the minds of a few individuals who recognized a dire need within their community. The issue was critical: the lack of high schools in the town.
Bonnievale had eleven primary schools but only one high school. This reality forced 80% of grade seven learners to attempt enrolling in neighboring towns. For some, this education scenario presents transportation difficulties. For others, living in a boarding school away from home comes with its own set of challenges. These obstacles, among others, typically result in learners dropping out of school and increasing the likelihood of unemployment.
In 2016, the idea for Jakes Gerwel started as “a sketch on a piece of paper” by a group of community members who then developed a fundraising model to build the school. This approach led to the school’s success, both as an example of a private-public partnership and a project owned by the people it serves. From community members clearing rocks from the site to donations-in-kind, the building of the school itself was a powerful moment in the history of the community.
Meeting the Needs of Learners
To ensure the school was rooted in the needs of its region, the founders consulted with parents and local employers. These discussions revealed a crucial necessity: learners needed more than just academic skills if they were to have the best chance of finding employment, become self-sufficient, and participate in the economy.
In the end, it worked because there was really the whole town involved.Augusta Brandt Relations Manager, Bonnievale 418
As a result, the curriculum at Jakes Gerwel caters to both the personal aspirations of learners and local employer demands. While it includes traditional courses like languages, maths, sports, and arts, it also features subjects such as engineering, architecture, agriculture, welding, and plumbing. This blend of academic and technical education, complemented by daily meals and homework support, not only boosts learner confidence but also equips them with a wide range of experiences for the future.
Witnessing a Full Circle of Impact
Five years after its opening, the school remains steadfast in its mission, serving as a shining example in the community and a model for similar initiatives.
Former learners of Jakes Gerwel are already giving back, leveraging their industry experience to assist the school’s teachers and mentor current learners. Additionally, some graduates are contributing their expertise to institutions similar to Jakes Gerwel. For instance, Struisbaai School of Skills in the Western Cape has received furniture and equipment crafted by Jakes Gerwel alumni, now employed at the factory supplying the school.
These full-circle moments fill the community with optimism, offering a glimpse into a promising future and the possibilities ahead.
“Over the past five years, we have seen the impact on families,” reflects Augusta Brandt, an early childhood development specialist and one of the school’s founders.
She had faced the same education and employment struggles the school was built to solve. “I’m so privileged to be part of building a better future for our children.” Now working as a liaison for Bonnievale 418, an education and empowerment entity born from the school’s success, she encourages communities to leverage local knowledge to create solutions that truly work. She often encourages others: “If we could do it, anybody can do it.”