Orient Heights teacher recognised for passion to ensure pupils are inspired
Pietermaritzburg teacher Perumal Govender has for years made
a special effort to ensure his pupils are inspired to reach for the stars — and
now he’s been recognised for it.
Govender (55), a maths teacher and acting principal at Orient Heights Primary School, was selected out of some 19 000 entrants nationally for the grand prize of the Woolworths Teacher’s Day competition in Cape Town last Friday. The award honours teachers who make a difference to the lives of pupils.
Entrants were nominated by their school’s pupils, who had to submit a motivation letter.
The Raisethorpe resident told The Witness that the nomination and victory both came as a surprise.
“It’s a humbling experience to know that the children appreciate what you do for them. I don’t expect things like this to happen for teachers.”
Govender said finalists were interviewed by a panel last month. “They asked us questions about why we teach, our thoughts on education. The entire point of my talk was about the caring nature of our school.”
He said judges were impressed by his commitment to ensuring pupils — many of whom come from poor backgrounds — are given what they need to perform at school.
Govender explained: “In order to level the playing field, I want each child to have the same thing, so there’s no feeling of inferiority. It helps to build their self esteem.
“Even when the [Khan Road] squatter camp got burnt recently, our children came the next morning and we gave them uniforms, food and stationery. We want them in school and not on the street.”
He added: “It’s not about the handouts — it’s about giving them what they need and letting them move forward.”
Govender, whose day begins at 6.30 am and finishes after 4 pm, placed emphasis on the personal development of the pupils.
“It’s not only about curriculum and passing the year. Making a difference through inspirational care is important. And it’s heartwarming to know all the hard work we do is appreciated.”
Govender said the finalists were given “VIP treatment” at the finals in Cape Town, where they were chauffeur-driven to and from events.
“The [hotel] we stayed in ... there were more sports cars parked on the streets outside than I’d seen in my whole life. It was a different experience,” he said.
He won R30 000 in Woolworths gift cards, R25 000 in cash, a laptop and an all-expenses paid weekend away for two in Cape Town.
Govender said he plans to give some of his winnings to charity. “I’m not a person for money. I still drive my 1984 Corolla.”