Part 48. Selamat Jalan, Helmy Vramerryan

Was there any more sexual misconduct at TBI Kelapa Gading?

There was.

Who did it involve?

One incident involved suspicious dealings with a local teacher. The other involved a TBI student; Helmy V was really caught in the act there. The third case involved the student assistants. He was generally sleazy and sexual in his manner of speaking to them and it wasn’t appreciated. I don’t think the sexual harassment graduated beyond comments with the TBI office staff. Unlike TBI Semarang, where multiple claims of sexual misconduct were formally lodged, there were never any formal complaints.

What happened with the local teacher?

Helmy V. had hired two Indonesian teachers to teach the local component of the 50-50 Native-Local classes. One of them was a middle-aged man and the other was a young woman, whose name I won’t mention. Let’s call her Ms. ABC. Ms. ABC was an attractive young woman.

After just a few days Helmy V. fired the Indonesian man without even announcing it to me. This guy just vanished and the teachers were asking me where he had gone. I didn’t know! So I asked Helmy and he said that the teacher wasn’t any good; there had been student complaints. So he had given all of that man’s hours to Ms. ABC and she was now working around 12 hours a week, or somewhere thereabouts.

Just a couple of days later I came into the staffroom and Helmy V. was in there with Ms. ABC. He was sitting on her desk while she was standing and they were really close, like almost touching. I mean I know there are different rules for ‘body space’ in different cultures but I lived in Indonesia for many years: he was as close as you can get without being intimate; he was really in her body space. I was surprised by what I was seeing. There was highly sexualised appearance to the whole thing. Alarm bells started ringing.

Did you presume that some kind of improper or inappropriate relationship existed between them?

I have stated what I saw. Let’s leave people to draw their own conclusions. But I was suspicious enough that I went to the fired teacher’s classes and asked them what they thought. They were all positive in their comments about the male teacher, which didn’t back up Helmy’s story that he was a bad teacher and so needed to be removed. My suspicions were aroused.

What about the student?

Caught red-handed with this one. She was a student at a Uni in Jakarta and wanted private lessons in IELTS. She booked 30 hours of private sessions; I was supposed to teach 15 of them and Helmy was supposed to teach the other 15. But I only ever taught her once for an hour and a half. There were numerous irregularities with the class and schedule. Helmy kept changing the times and days and schedules of the lessons and Helmy had ended up teaching her 7 times and I had only taught her once. He was lazy generally and was always trying to palm off his classes on other teachers and go home, but he insisted on teaching more than his fair share of classes with this girl. Oh, I should have mentioned, she was nineteen years old.

Did you suspect that there were sexual motivations for these changes?

No I didn’t. Helmy’s behaviour was odd and erratic generally so I was used to strange goings on: I did think he was being weird about this class but I didn’t believe there was some romantic intrigue involved. Perhaps I was very naive.

You say you caught him ‘red handed’?

One night I stayed back late in the staffroom. Helmy probably assumed I had gone home or maybe he was just brazen. I don’t know how that man thinks. I came downstairs and found them sitting in the former canteen together. They were sitting right next to each other on a bench and they were holding hands. They were, just as with Ms. ABC earlier, face to face and he was whispering to her in a soft, seductive voice. He thought he was a real Romeo this Helmy.

What did you do?

I said, “I’m going home now Helmy. See you tomorrow.” He knew I’d seen them but he didn’t seem remotely flustered or concerned. He just sat there holding both her hands in his.

I spoke to Pauwsan shortly afterwards and said that for multiple reasons including the incident with this student, I was no longer willing to work with Helmy. I would go back to being a regular teacher and finish my contract in that capacity. There were more assurances and broken promises from Pauwsan Sutanto, a classic back-flipper, but Helmy was soon gone.

What is your assessment of how much damage Helmy V. did to TBI Kelapa Gading?

I think the school’s reputation was already badly damaged by the previous manager, BF. School numbers had peaked in 2006 at 360 students at TBI Kelapa Gading and had fallen to 180 at points in 2008. The people of Kelapa Gading realized that TBI Kelapa gading was a poor school with low standards. In short, losing half a school is not an accomplishment BF can be proud of.

But having said, Helmy was many times worse than BF. He probably did as much damage in a few months as BF did in two and a half years. There were groups of angry mothers coming in all the time and more often than not they pulled their kids out. By reducing the prices for Combo classes he slashed the revenue from the remaining students too. The school was losing money hand over fist. Even a year after Helmy was gone parents would still mention his name at times and say how rude he was.

He also made ludicrous promises like taking whole classes to Ancol for excursions or for trips out to donut shops and so onwhich we had to honour; he was very free with other people’s money. The one In-House customer TBI Kelapa Gading had as a client in 2009 refused to have him as a teacher because his English was so bad. Other businesses who had had dealings with her were complaining about his manner a year or more later. What Helmy V. proves is the tremendous damage the wrong person can do to a school’s image. I think that TBI Kelapa Gading had a chance to be a leading school in 2006 and it blew it. Even five years later we would hear things like, “I sent my older boy there but his grammar didn’t improve so we moved him to EF.” TBI loves to rubbish EF but I can honesly say numerous customers told me that their kids had done better a EF Kelapa Gading than they had at TBI Kelapa Gading between 2006 and 2009. And if Mariam wants to know who to blame, she can look in the mirror because she knew what Helmy had done at Semarang and she appointed him again in Kelapa Gading.

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