Phuti grew up in straitened circumstances, but her parents saw leadership and teaching talents within her and encouraged her to try to become a teacher. She is now a teacher and Principal of her school, always keeping the idea of ‘service beyond self’ strongly in mind. Working in a semi-rural area, most of her learners are orphans, or from families where parents are poor or ill. Instead of turning children away if their parents are unable to pay for classes, she has managed to empower parents by employing them in the running of the school, giving their children opportunities they would not have otherwise had. The parents therefore also become invested in the school, and attendance is high.
Although her own education was very traditional (essentially using just blackboard and chalk), Phuti has undertaken a number of initiatives to widen the education available to her students. She has launched, with colleagues, a permaculture garden to grow vegetables and herbs for the benefit of the poor in the community. This helps students acquire the desire to become scientists, farmers and pharmacists when they see the application of what is grown in the garden. Phuti is also a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator, pioneering the integration of technology in the classroom, and has received many awards from the government and other organisations in recognition of her achievements. With the prize funds, she would improve the facilities of her school, adding a sanitation block, library building, and more computers in the short term.