“THE hard work has finally paid off after 32 years,” said acting Orient Heights Primary principal after winning in the Woolworths National Teacher’s Day Awards in Cape Town last Friday. Peru Govender, who has been a teacher for 32 years, 16 of which have been at Orient Heights, was selected for empowering pupils by making a difference through inspirational caring.Govender said it was the first time he had entered the competition and winning came as a surprise because many good teachers from across the country had entered. He told Maritzburg Fever he is pleased with the award, which has now encouraged him to work harder. “When they announced me as the winner and everyone stood up and cheered, it was humbling. My life is based on serving people. I am what I am today because of the school, the pupils and the community.“Being the first one in Pietermaritzburg and in KwaZulu-Natal to win this award means a lot. If we work hard we can change our pupils and society.” Govender was nominated by a Grade 7 Orient Heights pupil, Yestel Lutchman, who had to submit a motivational letter on why his teacher [Govender] is a hero. Govender was then shortlisted and attended interviews until he was announced the winner. Yestel won a R5 000 gift voucher and the school won R10 000.“I have always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives - that is what inspires me. Reading the letters of what our pupils wrote about us [teachers] has inspired me. It shows they care about us. “I teach them [pupils] to work hard from primary school because we want them [pupils] to succeed. “I tell teachers to keep reading because one day it will pay off. We are lucky that in this school we have many good teachers,” said Govender.He thanked his family, the school staff and school governing body for their unwavering support and also his mentor, Travor Naidoo, Mrs N.A. Zuma (Swayimana Circuit Manager) and Mr T.L. Mvubu (CEC Umngeni CMC) for their professional guidance and leadership.