Lebogang Diutlwileng, the acting principal of Retlameleng Special School, which caters for blind and deaf learners in Kimberley, made the Northern Cape proud by scooping the national award for Excellence in Special Needs Leadership at the 2023 National Teaching Awards.
LEBOGANG Diutlwileng, the acting principal of Retlameleng Special School, which caters for blind and deaf learners in Kimberley, made the Northern Cape proud by scooping the national award for Excellence in Special Needs Leadership at the 2023 National Teaching Awards.
Hosted at the Heartfelt Arena in Pretoria on October 5, the event was graced by the presence of Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who delivered the keynote address.
Diutlwileng scooped the award thanks to his outstanding presentation that highlighted the interventions and programmes undertaken by the school in support of its learners.
He has been the acting principal at Retlameleng since February this year, after being appointed as the deputy principal in January 2021.
Diutlwileng wears many caps – ranging from being a husband, a father, a pastor and the founder of the Next Generation NPO.
He is also the provincial chairperson of the South African Council for the Blind and the board secretary of the Northern Cape Society for the Blind.
Being a regular blood donor, he serves as a provincial committee member of the South African National Blood Service.
He is also a member of the South African Principals Association.
Diutlwileng said that this was the third time that he has entered for the awards.
“The last time was in 2016. On the first two occasions I also went until the national level but didn’t win,” he said.
He explained that the category for Excellence in Special Needs Leadership accommodates both principals and deputy principals.
He said that the competition was “exciting”, but also nerve-racking because he had to do the presentations while competing against teachers from all the other provinces in the country.
“The whole process was exciting because you learn a lot of new things that you were not aware of as a teacher. You come across a lot as you prepare your presentations. You become a better teacher moving forward,” said Diutwileng.
He encouraged other teachers to follow suit and showcase the good work that they are doing in the Province.
Diutwileng’s presentation was based on classroom teaching and incorporating ICT in his lessons, having proper administrative systems in place and school management, where he incorporated his personal vision and mission for the school of “building internal capacity together”.
He added that it highlighted conflict management, creating communication platforms and how he manages challenges of shortages or lack of resources.
“We participate in sporting codes like soccer, netball, volleyball, table tennis and athletics without any fields, but we improvise and still excel.
“The fact that I have a good relationship with the parents and that I have open and free communication platforms with them creates an advantage.
“I develop and encourage student leadership and afford them the freedom to express their interests,” said Diutlwileng proudly.
The presentation also highlighted the school’s strong external stakeholder relations.
“We have a partnership with Virgin Active for staff health and fitness, as well as with BonRo Studio, who teach the learners about filmmaking, podcasts and chat shows.
“We have a good relationship with South African Police Service, who are just a phone call away, and a good relationship with Crossover City Church, which has been supporting our school with spiritual and material needs over the past year.
“We also have partnership with Blind Library, where they help our school with Braille reading materials.
“We have a partnership with Special Olympics, an NPO that provides sporting and in-service skills opportunities to persons living with mental illnesses.
“Our school is home to a very active deaf community belonging to an NPO DeafSA, which is an advocacy organisation for the rights of people living with deafness.
“Our school is also host to the national chairperson of DeafSA, Desmond Kgarebe, who played a leading and critical role over the years for South African Sign Language to be recognised as the 12th official language.
“We are also in partnership with Kgobetsi and Sekonyela Trading, who from time to time take our learners through diamond processing exhibitions.”
Diutlwileng said his next step is to sharpen his leadership skills.
“I will be doing post-graduate studies in leadership and management next year.
“There are other competitions beyond the National Teaching Awards, such as AU Continental Teachers Awards, but those are assigned at the discretion of the ministers.
“I consider this award as strengthening my resolve to continue doing community work and hopefully it will open doors for resource mobilisation, both for the school and for the community projects that I’m involved in,” he concluded.