BEHIND every successful pupil is a dedicated teacher.Thoko Njoko, an inspirational teacher in Imbali, has been going beyond the call of duty running an award-winning environmental programme with a team of dedicated pupils at Mahlokazulu High School.The Witness yesterday featured Njoko’s pupils Nondumiso Mkhize, Nolwazi Sithole and Nonduduzo Mbhele, who won top honours in the province during the SA Youth Water Prize competition and also came third nationally for an ingenious system to purify water using kitchen waste.Devoting her spare time to helping the group of environmentalist pupils, Njoko was met with the challenge of not having a laboratory at the school. That, however, did not deter the life science teacher who also forked out from her own pocket for her pupils’ travelling costs.Njoko approached local companies and schools asking for equipment she could piece together to build the bio-sand filtration system.“Our bio-sand filtration system has been built out of the pieces we asked around for,” she said.Njoko said she learnt about the SA Youth Water Prize competition in 2005, when her group entered. “They prepared an investigation into the pollution level in local streams.“And in 2006, the same group came second nationally,” said Njoko.She said the competition earned the three pupils a trip to Sweden to represent the country.“It was an amazing experience and so rewarding. I realise pupils can be exposed to information and opportunities.”The proud teacher said she could not enter annually due to the demanding preparations this competition required.“We entered again in 2010 and got the same results. The pupils flew to Sweden. Although it is very challenging and demanding, I always feel proud of the pupils,” she said.Njoko added that she has worked around the clock while ensuring she does not interfere with pupils’ school work.“We work on weekends or arrive at school early or stay after school. But we ensure lessons or the school work assigned by other teachers is not interrupted.”Njoko’s 2006 and 2010 groups had a happy ending for their matric years. They were rewarded with full bursaries to study at any South African university in a water-related course.