Born and raised in Phoenix, Durban, Manuel (Manny) Govender has dedicated the past 10 years to ensuring Newcastle High School remains a force to be reckoned with.
Ensuring his students excel both academically and in sports, Mr Govender has proved being Principal is no easy task, but with a friendly smile and determination, he has captured the hearts of his learners and led his school to many a victory.
Manny talks about his journey in life and as a principle in an exclusive interview with the Newcastle Advertiser.
– What are your hobbies when not at school? I love hiking; travelling and just keeping fit at the gym.
– Tell us a little more about yourself: Like I said, I grew up in Phoenix, which is an Indian township (as per the old demarcations).
I attended Swanvale Primary School and completed my matric at Rydalpark Secondary.
I am the eldest of four siblings, brought up by a single mom, who worked hard to ensure we had our educational needs met, so I take my hat off to her.
“I can say we had it tough growing up with very little luxuries in life. Tertiary studies was not an option for my family, as we could not afford it, but I was determined, and through student loans, I made sure I went on to do my B.Sc Honours and then later my PGCE. I must say, it paid off in the long run.”
How long have you been at the school?
Amazingly enough, this will be my tenth year at Newcastle High School.
What about being a headmaster do you enjoy the most: I guess many think it’s such a status thing to be a principal, but for me it’s more that status. Iit’s about servant-hood and giving back to the community. It’s about seeing learners grow in knowledge and personal attributes and skills which will propel them into the big world.
“It’s getting that tap on the shoulder in the mall or at the shops from learners of years gone by, saying “You taught me Maths or Biology so many years ago,” and it’s the satisfaction of knowing they have used it to better themselves and become something in life.
It’s about getting acknowledgement from a parent saying “Thank you for helping my delinquent or troublesome child, and he or she is doing so well now”.
That’s when you know you’ve made a difference and accomplished a lot.”
Have you always had a passion for this sort of job? Passion is what drives education. A passionless teacher must just give it up because it will suck the marrow out of you, if you hate what you doing!
“Teaching grabs you, and when you see the difference you can make in a child’s life or in a family’s life; it’s just incredible, and with me, the passion cannot be suppressed.”
Are you married? If so, who is your spouse and what does she do for a living: Yes I am married to the lovely, Umitha Govender, and she is a teacher as well.
How many children do you have and what do they do for a living? I have two amazing daughters, Michaela and Latika, who are both studying Medicine at the moment
How do you think you have contributed to the school? Well it’s not easy to answer this, because contributions to any school, is a collective effort of all stakeholders involved, such as the educators, Student Governing Body, parents and learners.
But modesty aside, I’d like to think I have positively contributed valuable life lessons to the learners, educators and parents of the schooling community.
“I can safely say the school has made strides in its academic achievements, by not dropping below par, as our pass rates remain above 93 percent for the last 10 years, despite the quality of our intake at Grade 8 level.”
In pursuit of academic excellence, I managed to get Epoch-optima trust (Tshikulilu Investments) to fund and invest into our mathematics and science departments for the last nine years.
They have very rigorous application criteria and through hard work, we win their trust and confidence every year. Their contributions go a long way to ensure that learners get resources and training in these two subjects that plague our country.
Would you say the learners look up to you: Well I’d like to think so.
“It’s difficult to answer in this paradoxical educational environment we find ourselves in. Past students who are now at university, often call me for inspirational thoughts and motivation, so I guess it confirms they have learned something valuable from me at my assemblies and speech days.
Then you get the others (a few I might say) who just, no matter how good advice and concern you give out, will not accept it due to a rebellious spirit and not wanting to be disciplined.
But on the whole, I think they do look up to me, they just won’t admit it.”
What are your plans for the future after retirement: Well I don’t see myself doing anything else but teaching, it’s in my blood.
“After retirement my wife and I would love to travel, and we want to go to India and teach on a voluntary basis, in some of the rural areas for a short period. From what we’ve observed on our trips there, is the children there have a genuine sense of wanting and yearning to learn, despite having no proper schools and resources. So I’d really love to give something back to them.
What advice do you have for teachers who might feel unappreciated in this industry: Teaching is a selfless job and if you think you are going to get rich in this profession, you are sadly mistaken.
However, if you want to grow rich in spirit, then teach with a passion and forget about who thanks you or not.
To the Department, you may just be a persal number, but to those learners, you are their hero and role model.
“Teaching is becoming tougher by the day, and at times you may feel like the learners themselves don’t appreciate you. The discipline of learners may offset you, but just remember that these are children, and many of them are just in need of support and encouragement in an ever dying world of good values and morals.”
For some, school is their only safe haven, so help them grow into strong independent and confidant young men and women.
Lastly, what advice would you give the current matriculants as they get ready to write their final exams: There is no substitute for hard work. Many of our teens are fixated on a “get rich quick” mentality and this comes from false populism.
It may have worked for some, but there are many who crashed as well. It is therefore important to have a backup plan and in my view, education is the only tool that will emancipate!
I talk from experience and I know just how tough it can be when one has nothing but it was education that allowed me to break the cycle.
“Real life starts once you exit the school gates in January 2019. You will go out to different corners of the country, or even the world. In all that, remain true to yourself. You are what matters. Don’t sell yourself short for any “quick fix” as it will come back and bite you!”
In preparation for the upcoming matric examinations, it is still possible to turn things around! If you remain focused and determined to want to achieve success, then nothing but yourself can stop you from achieving it!”