Rio Grande Primary School principal Brenda Manuel with some of the Grade 1 pupils. From left, are, Rahna Williams, 6, Tamia Parenzee, 6, Cizara Fisher, 6, Veron Claasen, 7, Ziyaad Jones, 6, and Ramesh Adams, 7. Instead of having a private party, Ms Manuel treated all the pupils at her school with party packets and each received a plate of akhni. Brenda Manuel would not dream of celebrating her 60th birthday anywhere else but with the 600 children who bring so much joy to her heart.Ms Manuel, the principal of Rio Grande Primary School in Manenberg, celebrated her birthday on Monday August 22, and instead of hosting a private party for family and friends, she wanted to do something special for her pupils. She treated all the children with party packets and a plate of akhni. After “40 years and seven months” at the school, Ms Manuel said it was only fitting that she shared her special day with her “blessings”.“I was a fragile young girl of 19 years old when I started working here. By the grace of God, I am still here. With all its ups and downs, I will remain faithful to this community. My job has become more difficult over the years, but this helped me to develop into a strong woman. I’m here for my children (the pupils). It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it,” Ms Manuel said.She is very passionate about Manenberg and the children at her school, especially, and believes she still has lots more to offer.“I don’t feel 60. I feel like a 20-year-old. I feel energised, and believe the years ahead will just get better. I have not given retirement serious thought – only time will tell. However, I am grateful for my health and for my wonderful staff who support me. I have a lot of energy and health left for the school. I have been teaching at Rio Grande since my first day as a teacher, and I have never felt the need to go anywhere else. I have four daughters, and I named each of them after girls I used to teach. I am also now blessed with four granddaughters.”The school does have a feeding scheme, as poverty remains a challenge in that community. The food Ms Manuel arranged for the children, however, is just a little bit more special. She also gave all her staff members gift packs.“I wanted to show them all that I do appreciate them, and I wanted to spoil them. They are always my priority,” Ms Manuel said.