MEC Panyaza Lesufi leads officials into Clapham High School after a teacher collapsed and died there. Pictures: Jacues Naude
SHOCK and disbelief engulfed Clapham High School in Queenswood yesterday morning following the death of a 67-year-old teacher who fell ill while invigilating an exam and died soon after.

The teacher, who was not named as her family had not yet been informed, was described as a gentle soul.

She had retired and returned to assist with Grade 8 to 12 English classes at the beginning of March as the school had a vacancy at the time.

MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi rushed to the school as soon as he heard the news.

From the report he received from the school, the teacher was not feeling well in the morning, the MEC said.

The teacher went out of the classroom where she was invigilating an exam and headed to the staff room, saying she was not feeling well.

“When she got to the staff room she collapsed and was assisted by a team of teachers, who worked hard to try to resuscitate her. But unfortunately she died,” Lesufi said.

The death came as a surprise to her colleagues, family members and pupils, school governing body chairperson Dineo Tladi said.

The death was a shock to all as the teacher did not have any medical problems they knew about, she said.

“She had no respiratory problems or anything. This just came as a shock and we are all just shocked,” she said.

School principal Henning Pieters described the teacher as a gentle soul and a person who loved children and education.

“She came to assist children who struggled with English.

“The fact that she came to assist from retirement is an indication of how she loved her profession and the future of children’s lives,” Pieters said.

The teacher had not been there for long, he said, but within a short time she managed to creep into the hearts of staff members and the children she taught.

“She was truly loved. When I called the pupils and educators to the assembly to break the news there was shock and sadness on their faces,” he said.

The teacher never complained of being ill and was, in fact, one of the first to arrive and the last to leave the school premises, he said.

Yesterday morning she arrived a bit late and for the first time complained that she did not feel well, Pieters said.

Lesufi quickly dispatched a team of counsellors to the school as soon as the news reached him, and they immediately started offering counselling and comfort to staff and pupils. Classes were cancelled. Tladi said the closure was for the day.

The pupils would catch up during extra lessons, she said.

“We have to cover all the time we have taken from pupils because they had to write a test. But the principal and I thought it would be unfair for any teacher who has been through this to be expected to go back to class and teach." she said.

Tladi was confident that pupils would catch up on the time lost as they had hard working and dedicated educators.

Lesufi said the school had never given the department a performance of less than 90% and trusted the pupils would catch up.

“We all have to agree that this was not a normal day; there was no way those teachers were going to be able to teach after what happened,” he said.

Lesufi would visit the teacher's family later this week as he had to attend the memorial service of the victims of last week’s crash outside Bronkhorstspruit that claimed the lives of 18 pupils, as well as the driver and a general worker from one of the schools.