Located in the area of Emndeni in Soweto is the first full STEM, commerce and entrepreneurship school in South Africa, unveiled today by the Gauteng Department of Education.

Formerly known as Fontanus High School, the new facelift given to Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation has made it almost unrecognisable to those in the community and former pupils alike.

What used to be a dysfunctional place of learning, has been transformed into a school specifically focused on arts, culture, engineering, maths, science ICT, commerce and entrepreneurship.

Admission into the school is granted after potential learners take an aptitude test to determine whether or not they fit the criteria and into which field they should be admitted.

The school’s namesake was an advocate for education during the Apartheid era and was involved in a number of political activities.

This is the first School of Specialisation to be unveiled by the department, after MEC Panyaza Lesufi announced the launch of these schools back in February, in partnership with the Information Technology Association of South Africa (ITA), with support from SAP and the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.

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Schools of Specialisation focus on both theory and practical learning. This makes them distinct from normal public schools because they have a strong technical and vocational content.

Learners are given workplace exposure and career guidance in their chosen fields to prepare them for the transition to work or to pursue higher training.

One of the practical classes pupils will be partaking in is an engineering class where they’ll work on a real SAA Boeing 737 engine supplied by South African Airways.

Fontanus Secondary School had become so notorious and vandalised that the department of Education had resolved to hand the property over to the Post Office and give up on it. By the time it took on the School of Specialisation project, learner numbers had dwindled from 1001 to just 130.

Refurbishments were done at a cost of R80 million rand. The school is fitted with a science lab, computer lab, vocational classes, free WiFi, tablets for each learner, SmartBoards in each class and a laptop for each teacher.

Each block in the school has been named after a prominent South African, young and old, past and present.

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Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga and Gauteng MEC of Education, were also in attendance to preside over the unveiling ceremony.

The late Nkondo’s surviving wife was there to represent the Nkondo family.

The wife of the late Curtis Nkondo (second from right)
The wife of the late Curtis Nkondo (second from right)

According to Lesufi, the community did not trust in government’s plan to resurrect the school to its former glory, but it took a lot of consultation with residents and other stakeholders to get it off the ground and win their trust.

“This is a new era is basic education,” Motshekga said. “Schools of Specialisation will assist in addressing critical skills shortages in South Africa.”

Over 300 new school uniforms were handed to learners today and classes officially kicked off.