Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi launched Rhodesfield Technical High School as the first Engineering School of Specialisation with an aviation-focused Curriculum on Tuesday.
Rhodesfield is one of 29 schools in the province identified to be converted into Schools of Specialisation (SoS).
The launch follows the opening of Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation in Emndeni in 2016, Magaliesburg School of Specialisation in 2017 and of Nuclear Technology Schools of Specialisation (NTSOS) in April.
“SoS will assist in addressing critical skills shortages in South Africa. These schools will offer a highly specialised curriculum and will target top performing learners across the province,” said Lesufi.
“Schools of Specialisation (SoS) also seek to nurture the development of top talent in South Africa across key disciplines, breeding the country’s future generation of leaders.”
Rhodesfield was first established in 1975 for learners to study auto mechanic, electrical engineering and woodwork, among others, and now 43 years later, it has been redesigned to serve as a pipeline for the full value chain of the aviation and logistics industry.
The school was identified to focus on aviation because of its proximity to OR Tambo International Airport.
Ansie Ras, acting principal at Rhodesfield, said: “I am proud and very excited about the new venture we are going to face in future. Our learners were always interested in just engineering but now a whole new life has opened for them and now all of them want to become pilots.
“We are very excited and look forward to working with our partners, Paramount Group, MATA, SACEEC, Fireblade Aviation, Barlow World, GFPA and SAA Technical. This will definitely benefit our learners and create more opportunities for them.”
The prestigious event started when members of Kempton Park SAPS assisted learners to hoist the South African and African Union flags with the school choir singing the national anthem. Lesufi, alongside Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga, presided over the official unveiling of a Mirage V airframe donated by Paramount Group to mark the official launch of the school.
The Mirage V is on display at the front entrance of the school.
“The pool of students who can potentially access university and science-based TVET programmes is very small in comparison to the skill demands in the country. Hence the need for Schools of Specialisation such as this one is indeed a catalyst for the future of basic education,” said Motshekga.
“Skills shortages have been an issue for South Africa for some time now, and this is further compounded by the growing need for technical and digital skills. The SoS is part of Gauteng Department of Education (GDE)’s reorganisation of schools programmes which takes its lead from the National Development Plan (NDP).
“As we are aware, the SoS will focus on mathematics, science, engineering, commerce, entrepreneurship, sports, arts and culture. We hope that by honing skills in these areas, it will be able to transform schools in Gauteng and help grow the skills base needed for economic growth in the country at large.”
A plaque, mounted on the wall next to the school’s office, was also unveiled on the day.
The event was attended by a number of guests who joined the learners in celebrating the milestone. The learners rendered top-class items during the programme in the school hall as a way to celebrate and show their appreciation of the venture.
Guests also enjoyed an exhibition put up in and outside the school’s workshop and Rhodesfield learners demonstrated an aeroplane they built themselves.