English Teacher Died of Meningitis

A New Zealand man who died while teaching in Cambodia is being remembered by family as a gentle giant.

Isak van Schalkwyk, a permanent resident of New Zealand*, died on April 18 of meningitis. He was 31. (*passport South African)

Auckland-based sister Nina Greeff said her parents, who live in South Africa, were heading away for the Easter weekend when they received a call that van Schalkwyk had died. 

They made their way back home to organise flights to Cambodia and Greeff and her husband met them there.

“The medical report we received from the hospital stated that the cause of death was meningitis.

“He had a temperature of 42C. We don’t think he realised how sick he really was.”

Greeff said the whole ordeal had been heartbreaking and her family hadn’t known what really happened to him until they arrived in Cambodia.

“First we were misinformed that it was an overdose and then also reading an article online that it was a heart attack. Absolutely terrible,” she said.

Greeff said her family moved to Christchurch in 1997 before moving back to South Africa four years later.

She said van Schalkwyk became a permanent resident of New Zealand and moved back in 2008 to study.

After another stint in South Africa, he travelled to Thailand in 2018 and did a course which allowed him to teach English. He went to Cambodia to teach at Western International School in October of that year.

“The plan was for him to permanently come back to Auckland in the next couple of months to stay with my husband and me while he looked for a job and found his feet,” Greeff said.

“Then suddenly and unexpectedly this awful tragedy happened.”

Greeff said her family has met with the children her brother taught in Cambodia.

‘They were so sweet and kind. We all cried together and they gave us hugs. They called him their giant teacher.”

Greeff said her brother’s death had been a shock and an unexpected tragedy.

“He was one of a kind. A gentle giant with a unique sense of humour and quirky mannerisms.

“We will miss him and love him always.”

Greeff said the costs involved with her brother’s death will be “astronomical” for her parents and she has created a Givealittle page to help them.

What is meningitis?

The Meningitis Foundation of New Zealand says meningitis is the inflammation of the membrane lining of the brain and spinal cord.

Bacterial meningitis is life threatening and can cause death within hours if not properly treated, it said.

Symptoms are similar to that of the flu and can be hard to diagnose as a result, the foundation says.

Head here for more information. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/112292415/kiwi-man-31-dies-of-meningitis-while-teaching-english-in-cambodia

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