Teachers’ feud escalates
‘Bodyguard’ roped in, grade 4 kids taught in nearby funeral home
● A bodyguard hired to protect a teacher at school, a tense standoff between the teacher and the principal, and pupils being taught in a funeral parlour: these are some of the scenes playing out at Olympic Primary School in Kimberley, in the Northern Cape.
Grade 4 teacher Heidi Daries and principal Bantu Archie Jack have been at loggerheads ever since she pleaded guilty to inciting her son to attack him in school in 2016.
Daries, who has been teaching for 28 years, was found guilty of misconduct for “acting in a disgraceful, improper and unbecoming” manner, by two disciplinary hearings conducted by the South African Council for Educators (Sace) after she faced a raft of charges.
In the first hearing, in June 2017, she pleaded guilty to nine charges, which included using the K-word while addressing a fellow teacher in 2015.
She was also found guilty during the first hearing of storming into a teacher’s class while she was teaching, “grabbing her by the clothes” and warning her not to talk to or befriend another teacher.
Sace recommended that her name be removed from the roll of teachers but that the sanction be suspended for 15 years on condition she is not found guilty of any form of misconduct during this period.
She was also fined R15,000 and ordered to attend an anger management course and apologise to Jack and three other teachers.
In her apology, a copy of which has been seen by the Sunday Times, she says: “In every case it was something triggered by my own misguided sense of righteousness that turned into some form of conflict.”
The council confirmed this week that Daries did not pay the fine nor attend the anger management course.
During a second disciplinary hearing, last November, she was found guilty of six charges that all involved harassing and humiliating a cleaner by repeatedly mentioning her name on Facebook posts.
Last month, Sace asked Daries to give reasons why her name should not be removed from the roll of teachers indefinitely.
Daries in turn said she had been assaulted three times, including once by Jack and twice by a teacher, according to a document seen by the Sunday Times. One of the alleged assaults by the teacher took place in a toilet in the school on October 2019. This resulted in parents reportedly calling for Jack’s removal from the school.
Jack this week denied assaulting Daries, saying claims that he had done so were “blue lies”.
“Her son assaulted me; it was not the other way round,” he said.
He declined to respond to further queries and referred the Sunday Times to the Northern Cape education department.
Department spokesperson Lehuma Ntuane said they were aware of the growing tension between Daries and Jack “because of the complaints that they level against each other”.
“This matter is being attended to by the district office and once we reach a finality, we will communicate the outcome.”
Lydia Voss confirmed that she has been paid R1,800 a month by Daries since October last year to act as her bodyguard.
“She is afraid of being at school alone. I accompany her to class every day and sit in the room while she is teaching.”
She also accompanies Daries when she visits the principal’s office or the toilet.
“The teachers now say they are afraid of me but I don’t know why.”
The grandmother of five is not a trained bodyguard but said she would do everything in her power to protect Daries if her life was threatened.
“Everyone in the community likes her and the children at school regard her as a mother figure,” said Voss.
The Sunday Times established that on
Wednesday Daries taught the seven grade 4 pupils who came to school at a funeral parlour near the school because her bodyguard was barred from entering the school.
She told a parent she had made sure the children did not see the coffins.
A circuit manager eventually persuaded her to send the children back to school.
Ntuane said the department “will under no circumstance give permission to any educator to teach learners at any environment outside of the school”.
“We have already instituted an investigation into this matter to establish the circumstance under which learners were taught at the local funeral parlour. We view this in a serious light and those involved will be held accountable.”
On Thursday Daries stood outside the school gate for the entire school day, according to parents after the school had refused Voss entry into the classroom.
Sace CEO Ella Mokgalane said despite Daries’s first sanction in 2017 indicating that she must not be found guilty of unprofessional conduct for 15 years, “she went ahead”.
She confirmed that Daries was sent a letter asking her to give reasons why her name should not be removed from the register.
“No decision has been taken by council as yet as it is still going to consider the submission and representation by Mrs Daries before taking a final decision.”
She is afraid of being at school alone. I accompany her to class every day and sit in the room while she is teaching
Lydia Voss, ‘bodyguard’