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VIDEO: Grief at Meadowbrook

Students faint as they mourn sudden death of teacher

BY KARYL WALKER Online news editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 20, 2012    

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AT least 15 students of the Meadowbrook High School in Kingston fainted yesterday as the reality that their beloved industrial arts teacher, Orville Heaven, would be with them no more.

The students had to taken to receive medical attention.

Heaven, 43, collapsed and died while teaching students of Grade 9E during the school’s afternoon session on Tuesday, leaving staff and students in shock as they tried hard yesterday to cope with the trauma from his sudden passing.

The late teacher was head of the school’s Industrial Arts Department, and according to Vice-Principal Jean Jackson, who worked with him for two decades, his death has left a gaping hole in the hearts of students and teachers.

“He was a very pleasant, jovial and an easy-to-work with person. Right now I am not taking it very well, and I even don’t know what I am going to do,” Jackson told the Jamaica Observer.

The school’s administration yesterday called in grief counsellors from the Ministry of Education to assist students in dealing with the death of their teacher, who was described as dedicated and jovial by many.

The ninth-grade students who witnessed Heaven collapse and die were singled out for a special counselling session, while the other students were counselled in their respective age groups by Ministry of Education staff.

School Principal Michael Peart, who was visibly shaken by the incident, was unable to speak to the Observer, but tried to remain calm as he addressed the students during morning devotion yesterday.

“We are mortal and man is in need of God. We just have to say to ourselves that we cannot, Lord, thy purpose see, but all is well that is done by thee,” Peart told the students before announcing that all classes would be cancelled until midday.

Jason Whyte, Heaven’s understudy in the Industrial Arts Department, fought hard to hold back tears as he described his relationship with his mentor.

“We had a very close relationship. We got along very well. We would do everything together and he was the one who interviewed me when I applied for this job. He always treated me like a brother,” Whyte said.

Inside the Industrial Arts classroom where Heaven taught his last lesson, the last words he wrote on a white board were still there. A wooden cross was placed underneath the words. About six students sat solemnly inside the room. Some wept bitterly, while others just stared seemingly into space.

While a post-mortem has yet to be conducted to determine the cause of his death, Heaven’s colleagues said he had recently been given medication for a heart condition, but did not take the medicine because he was slated to undergo further tests.

Physical education, social studies and history teacher Daton Gordon, who had been a close friend of Heaven for years, found it difficult to hide his emotions as he mourned his colleague’s death.

“Well we were extremely close. In fact, I have not slept since last night,” Gordon said.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Education expressed its sadness at Heaven’s passing and extended its condolence to his family, staff and students.

Orville Heaven is survived by his wife and a teenage son.

He was the brother of W Billy Heaven, chief executive officer of the CHASE Fund, and Hyacinth Heaven-Harvey, secretary in the Communications Department at the Ministry of Education.

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