Klapmut’s visionary leader: a real South African role model

Klapmut’s visionary leader: a real South African role model

Despite his modest beginnings, Ronald Benjamin Frans has grown into a formidable leader who inspires transformation and innovation. He is an example of what is possible when leaders take charge with vision, compassion and inclusiveness - all supported by the community and empowered by partnerships.


Ronald began his teaching career in 1981 at Valhalla Secondary in Cape Town where he taught for four years. Thereafter, he applied for the position of department head at Klapmuts Primary - a move that reunited him with his high school teacher and mentor Mr Jeffery, who at the time, was the principal of Klapmuts.

Ronald Frans and Klapmuts Primary have received multiple accolades for their efforts.

In 1994, Ronald took over the reins from Jeffery and became the principal of Klapmuts.

 “I had a vision to create a culture where the community views the school as a beacon of hope, a lighthouse providing guidance and a hub of information.”

This was his bold and audacious vision for the no-fee school which is located in a community where high unemployment and poverty are rife, and where 1300 of the 1500 learners’ receive social grants.

Ronald’s first attempt at positive reform came when he actively encouraged locals to become teachers at the school. When he started teaching at Klapmuts, there were no teachers employed from the community itself and the parents were generally disengaged.  He tasted success when the Cape Wine Auction Trust pledged to fund the appointment of 24 teacher assistants – all of them hailing from the Klapmuts area. To improve parent and community engagement with the school, he decided to make the newly built school hall available to the community free of charge.

Among many other initiatives, Ronald established a needlework and gardening project, while forging partnerships with the British High Commission and various Swedish non-profits to help realise these projects. The projects became enormously successful, which even led to a much-anticipated visit by representatives from the United Nations.

Ronald also steered the school to becoming leaders in the area of e-learning. The school now has 12 smart classrooms, data projectors for 40 of the school’s classrooms, and the Western Cape Education Department is currently installing fiber internet for the entire school.

These initiatives ultimately allowed the community to take ownership of the school, and as a result, Klapmuts Primary has not experienced any theft or vandalism of its upgraded property.

Ronald in one of the modern classrooms

As there were the many triumphs during Ronald’s tenor, there were many challenges, too. His most pressing challenge was the condition of the school building – it was literally falling apart. Ronald refused to expose the learners to this safety risk, so as a public protest, he used red tape to block the entrance. The timing of this protest was fortuitous, as the Independent Development Trust had just been task to replace dilapidated schools, including Klapmuts.

Fast forward to 2010, Klapmuts Primary opened its new state-of-the-art school building designed with the learners’ dreams and desires in mind. Today, the school hosts a school-public library where the community has full access to borrow books, do research and use the computers and free internet.

The modern Klapmuts Primary school building that was opened in 2010.

Ronald acknowledges that no vision would be accomplished without wider collaboration.

One of these partners was Valcare member and business leader, Theo van den Berg, who joined Ronald on the Partners for Possibility (PfP), year-long, structured programme of leadership development and support. During this time, they have taken the concept of partnering and collaboration and used it to improve the quality of education at Klapmuts. Theo, as an experienced business leader, acted as a sounding board and a conduit to much-needed donor opportunities.

Dubbed the ‘’gentle giant’’, Ronald’s tireless efforts in building his school and community were recently recognised when he received the National Nelson Mandela Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Department of Basic Education’s 2018 National Teaching Awards.

Ronald is still able to vividly recall the moment he entered the premise to Valhalla Secondary on his first day of teaching. He remembers being greeted by a teacher in a ‘’pretty tiger-skin dress’’, who later became his wife, best friend and biggest supporter.

For the people of the communities he has served and continues to serve, that day saw a born leader become inspired to create a new narrative for his people.


Collaborations with organisations like Valcare, Inceba and Ranyaka, as well as corporates like Nedbank make lasting impact possible.



30 November -1, 00:00