Suspended Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher fights to clear her name

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RUSTENBURG, January 15 – Suspended Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen will fight to clear her, name she said on Tuesday.

“I will not be told what my worth is by people who do not know me. I will embark on this journey. I will clear my name. I will take on these people with power and I shall win,”  she told reporters in Centurion, Pretoria.

“Last week my world changed. A photograph I took of a class full of happy, smiling children on their first day of school was used by opportunists against my children, against me, and against my school.”

North West Education MEC Sello Lehari suspended Barkhuizen with immediate effect on January 10 after a picture showing four black children seated separately from their white classmates in a Grade R class went viral.

Barkhuizen reportedly took the picture and sent it to the parents’ Whatsapp group intending to show how children had settled in class on their first day at school.

Lehari said the school had explained that the children were separated because they could not speak English or Afrikaans.

Barkhuizen said would stand up for herself, learners and for all teachers.

“My job is not politics, but teaching. My profession is love for children, just because they are children. I see how each of my learners explores a new world and I help them to master that new world. I see how small drooping shoulders transform into jubilation and smiles after a hug.

“I walk with them every step of the way each year – my heart breaks every year when I have to say goodbye to them – but I am proud to see they are ready for the next step, because that is what I do as a teacher, regardless of race or background. A teacher is the candle that lights children’s small flames, even if it means sacrifices have to be made,” she said.

Trade union Solidarity said it would serve court papers before the end of the week asking that her unlawful suspension be lifted as a matter of urgency. The union also said it was considering civil action following the investigations, which may include a libel claim among others.

The union said Barkhuizen was appointed by the school governing body, a fact that has been overlooked, and that Lehari acted outside his powers and also that no correct procedures were followed to suspend her. (ANA)