Katlehong Technical High School principal Jaco Opperman, 39, is on a mission to transform not only the learners at the school, but the community as well. Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)
This month, 17 former Katlehong Technical High School (KTHS) learners will embark on a trade test to become highly skilled artisans thanks to the vision of their school principal

Jaco Opperman, together with the school governing body (SGB), launched this initiative 18 months ago where 20 matriculants were placed in learnerships and earned an average of R5000 a month during their on-the-job studies.

This programme is part of a slew of initiatives launched since July 2015 when 39-year-old Opperman took the reins at the specialised school in the Ekurhuleni township.

However, Opperman is adamant about one thing: “I’m no white messiah. If you do your work, if you’re passionate and your heart is in it, you won’t care about racial issues. At the end of the day I’m not the one who is making this school successful; I have support from the schoolteachers who are doing the actual work - not me.”

He was born, raised and received basic education in Ekurhuleni, whereupon he obtained his tertiary qualification, including a postgraduate degree in education management,  at the University of Pretoria.

KTHS was the ninth township school in Ekurhuleni that he applied for, saying he wanted to work in impoverished and working-class communities “in order to make a difference”.

Opperman contended that there was nothing much separating township and suburban schools in terms of funding and operations, and credited Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi for “really changing the face of township education”.

The school offers all the fields of all the technical subjects, where they also provide specialised subjects such as automotive technology, fitting and machinery, and welding.

Jaco Opperman in one of the workshops at the Katlehong Technical High School. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)

“I believe there is work out there, but we must equip our learners with necessary skills - and that’s where we come in,” Opperman said.

His views were echoed by SGB chairperson Lehlohonolo Moleli, who proudly took The Star around the school to show off their workshops and state-of-the-art computer centre.

“This school is the only one in Kathorus (Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus) which will offer computer coding to its learners. We have just paid cash for our own school minibus taxi so that we don’t have transport problems for our learners.

“We are also in the process of buying a 4-ton truck in order to offer driving lessons to learners so they can leave with licences,” enthused Moleli, whose son is in matric this year.

“The management of funds is the key for every school to succeed,” he said.

Moleli added that the school was always sourcing additional funding to improve their programmes, which includes a self-run feeding scheme, for which the school employs an additional 12 people.

Opperman emphasised that the learnership programme would continue once the current cohort have left, but that they needed additional funding to increase the intake.