Matie Voices

Werner Cloete

Alumnus of the Faculty of Science

“I have never doubted my decision to become a teacher.”

Werner Cloete, principal of Calling Academy Vlaeberg – a new private high school in Stellenbosch that offers high-quality education for boys from lower-income areas – is a teacher through and through.

“I have never doubted my decision to become a teacher. On the contrary, I have always tried to promote teaching as a career and to highlight the positive impact that teachers can have.”

This former head boy of Paul Roos Gymnasium (PRG) received a bursary from the school to study BSc(Ed) with mathematics and chemistry as majors at Stellenbosch University (SU). He graduated in 2003 and taught in England for two years before he returned to PRG to honour his bursary obligations.

In his 10 years at the school he served as house master and head of character development, among other roles. He is cofounder of Engage, a movement to encourage and equip parents, especially fathers, in the school community to be role models for their children.

Werner resigned from PRG at the end of 2015 to start the non-profit organisation Calling Education together with Dr Philip Geldenhuys, cofounder and former CEO of the organisation Community Keepers.

“It might have been a risky decision, but it wasn’t a difficult one,” says Werner, father of two young children.

The problem statement was clear: The quality of education in lower-income areas is often unsatisfactory, which makes it difficult to break the poverty cycle. The Calling Education model strives to offer high-quality education to learners from lower-income groups by creating a broad base of support and unlocking the donor potential of the middle class. It offers a private school at R6 000 per year, while the rest of the necessary funds are raised by means of a blended funding model.

“This model enables a small business, a group of friends or even a book club to change a child’s life by helping to keep the school fees affordable,” says Werner. Calling Education sources a partnership of R9 000 (in 2018) for each learner in the school.

Calling Academy Vlaeberg opened its doors in January 2018 with 60 learners and has received more than 90 applications for the 60 available places in 2019. The school offers short courses such as coding, entrepreneurial leadership and a character-development module named ‘Future fathers’ aimed at addressing the problem of absent fathers. Learners have access to tablets and space is created for self-directed learning, especially in subjects such as mathematics and English.

“We want to promote learning autonomy to facilitate the transition between school and university and to create a better pipeline of learners from lower-income areas to especially SU,” explains Werner. The school also takes the learners on excursions to the University and companies in the vicinity to broaden their vision for their future.

The organisation is currently planning a big building project to expand the school’s facilities. They also want to start a second school eventually.

“Our vision is to eventually extend the model to other parts of the country,” says Werner.

- By Pia Nänny -