Teaching is "the best mistake I ever made"

Friday, March 8, 2013

Johannesburg – Bilkes Bhano Vawda accidentally registered for the wrong course when she first went to university many years ago, but now after spending 38 years in the teaching profession, she says it is the best mistake she has ever made.

“I accidentally registered for the wrong course, but I enjoyed it so much that I decided to stick with teaching,” says Vawda.

Vawda’s journey into education can only be described as fate.

She has spent a total of 20 years at Marlboro Gardens Secondary School in Johannesburg and has been the principal at the school since 1998. She is still passionate about the profession.

In her time at the school, she has witnessed a number of changes in the education system. She and her School Governing Body have worked tirelessly to ensure the school provides an environment conducive to quality education for all its learners.

“When I first arrived here, the school was catering only to Indian learners, but together with the SGB, we have transformed the school. We have now grown to accommodate 1 300 learners, most of whom come from Alexandra.

“The area is not well off, so we strive to keep fees as low as possible, while still providing a quality education.”

For many teachers – especially those from Gauteng - who attended the National Teaching Awards ceremony in Johannesburg on Thursday evening, it was not surprising, when Vawda scooped the Lifetime Achievement Award.

This category of the awards honours the “true heroes and heroines of our nation, the selfless individuals that opened the doors of knowledge to the future leaders, activists and custodians of our beautiful nation”.

Held under the theme “Our teachers, our inspiration”, the awards were attended by President Jacob Zuma and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

The awards recognise excellence in teaching. Other categories include: Excellence in Primary School Teaching, Secondary School Teaching, Primary School Leadership, Secondary School Leadership, Grade R Teaching, Special Needs Teaching as well as Excellence in ICT-enhanced Teaching.

They also included the Professor Kader Asmal Excellence Award.

Among the many prizes Vawda, has won a brand new car, thanks to sponsorship from Nedbank.

Accepting the award, she stressed that it was not as a result of what she has done as a teacher or as school principal. It was the result of the combined effort of her team at the school that was making a significant difference in the lives of the poorest of the poor of Alexandra township.

“Somebody once said the most important ingredient to success is the rest of the team, and the team at my school is indeed superb,” she said.

After thanking her mother for all the sacrifices she made for her children, as well as her own husband and children, Vawda thanked Minister Motshekga for the recognition given to educators.

“This will indeed enhance motivation in our school,” said an emotional Vawda.

Other winners were Julie-Ann Lendrum from Winchester Ridge Primary School in Gauteng, who clinched the award for Excellence in Primary School Teaching and Ismail Teladia from Spine Road High School in Western Cape, who was named the winner for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching.

Mmakgompi Messina Mokgope from Tsitsing Primary School in the North West walked away with an award in Excellence in Primary School Leadership, whilst Derick Petersen from Imizamo Yethu Secondary School in Western Cape won the award in Excellence in Secondary School Leadership.

Karin Issabel Adlem from Pietersburg English Medium Primary School in Limpopo was named the winner in Excellence in Grade R Teaching. Hanlie Christina Swanepoel from Estralita Special School in Mpumalanga won the Excellence in Special Needs Education.

The award for Excellence in Technology-Enhanced Teaching and Learning was given to Anita van Vuuren from Universitas Primary School in Free State. Khethiwe Komazi from Northern Cape won the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy - Volunteer Educators, with Shadrack Moleko from North West winning the Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy - Supervisors.

Johannes Monnaphiri Melesi, a school principal at Kopanong Secondary School in Free State, who scooped the Professor Kader Asmal Excellence Award also attributed his achievement to his staff.

“My success is not mine but that of the people from the schools I went to and the province I come from,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za