Maleeka and Miss Saunders both have issues with their skin that creates problems for them. Maleeka is dark-skinned, and feels different from the other kids at school. Like most people her age, she desperately wants to fit in, yet feels that her skin color holds her back. Even the black kids at school tease her for being "too black."
As for Miss Saunders, she has a large birthmark on her face due to a skin disorder. Yet far from being insecure, she's actually a very confident, assertive woman, the kind of person that Maleeka can only dream of being. Unlike Maleeka, Miss Saunders has learned to live with the skin she's in and accept herself for who and what she is.
Something else that Maleeka and Miss Saunders have in common is their intelligence. Miss Saunders sees straight away that Maleeka's a very bright girl, which is why she's always driving her on, encouraging to do her best at school. She knows that Maleeka's so much better than Char and the other delinquents. Just as she's seen past her own skin, so to speak, to embrace and accept the real person beneath, she ignores Maleeka's dark skin to behold an intelligent girl with great academic potential.