Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Grade six teacher dies days before PEP exam

Published:Friday | February 21, 2020 | 12:21 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Donald Rowe
Donald Rowe

Staff and students at the Ocho Rios primary school had to receive grief counselling earlier this week after a grade six teacher, 47 year-old Donald Rowe, died suddenly on Sunday.

Rowe, of Hartland in Priory, St Ann, had visited doctors up to Friday to check on a medical issue. His death, however, still came as a shock to many.

And with the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) Ability Test set for next week Tuesday, the entire school community is in mourning and has forced principal Suzette Barnes-Wilson to make adjustments in order to continue the smooth flow of preparation for the exams.

“It is a sombre mood and children are still weeping, teachers still shaken. We have someone just came back from leave, so we have pulled her so we have persons already in place to carry on with grade six,” Barnes-Wilson explained to The Gleaner on Wednesday.

She said part of the preparation now has to do with lending moral support to the students.

“We are motivating the students, encouraging them to carry on as this is what Mr Rowe would have wanted. We’ve said to them, do it for Mr Rowe and give it your best shot.”

Rowe has been at the school for 21 years and according to the principal, his death “has been really rough for us as staff, both academic and support staff.”

The counselling team from the Ministry of Education has been offering support, she said.

“The counselling team for Region Three came in and they really supported us. Parents came in and assisted, past principals and retired teachers came in on Monday and supported us.”

Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) President Owen Speid, chairman of the school board, Michael Belnavis and other Ministry of Education representatives, outside of the counselling team, also visited the school.

Rowe was also the school’s sports coordinator and the grade one sports day has been cancelled as a result. However, sports for the other classes will go ahead at a later date.

Barnes-Wilson said Rowe was loved and respected by everyone he has come across.

“We have missed a service-oriented individual, he served everybody, not only the school, and he served with a smile. He was a very humble persons and he has left something with everybody.”

The school is planning to have a candlelight vigil for the late teacher next week Tuesday starting at 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the friend and neighbour who found Rowe’s lifeless body at his home on Sunday morning at around 7:00, described the teachers passing as a great loss.

“It really is a great loss, he was a humanitarian at heart,” she told The Gleaner.

“He was the consummate professional who went above and beyond duty. There was nothing too much for him to do and, of course, his students were of paramount importance; he made so many sacrifices.”

She said the outpouring of love for Rowe speaks to the person he was.

“It speaks to the fact that he was everything to everybody. I don’t know how he was able to manage giving a little piece of his heart to everybody, around him, everybody felt special.”

An ardent JTA member, Rowe served as contact teacher at Ocho Rios primary for several years and was also a returning officer for the teachers’ union Ocho Rios district.