Education and black justice exponent bestowed hero status

By Max Hamata

LATE legendary education icon, Martin Lazarus Shipanga, who mentored most of Namibia’s liberation struggle leaders at Augustineum Teachers College in Okahandja has been conferred with national honours, Vice President Nangolo Mbumba announced this week.

Aged 89, Shipanga passed on at his house in Hochland Park on Sunday.

Mbumba hailed him as a true national figure who made immense contribution to the education of the country.

Amongst Shipanga’s protégés as a teacher at Augustineum, include members of the Constituent Assembly, which unanimously adopted the Namibian Constitution on February 9 1990. Augustineum was the first black education college in Namibia.

His scholars include President Hage Geingob, who was the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Hidipo Hamutenya, current Speaker of the National Assembly  Peter Katjavivi, the late former Swanu President, Gerson Veii, former Trade Minister Ben Amadhila and former Health Minister Dr. Libertine Amathila, the late Mose Tjitendero and Moses //Garoeb.

Remembering Mr. Shipanga fondly as an inspiring teacher, President Geingob said: “Mr. Shipanga did not only play a big role in my education, but more impressively, he helped shape the education of generations of Namibians. His kind, but firm approach to education left an inedible legacy on many who were his students. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

Mr. Shipanga taught President Geingob at Augustineum Secondary School at Okahandja in 1958.

The first black medical doctor, Thomas Ihuhua, traditional leaders such as Justus //Garoeb and Chief Johannes Isaak, Simson !Gobs, Bishop Andreas Biwa and political activists Lineekela Kalenga, Nicky Nashandi, the late Jason Mutumbulwa, school inspectors Albertus Geingob and Gert Katzao are amongst those that went through his tutelage.

“Augustineum was a breeding ground for political consciousness which inspired a lot of his students to flee into exile to take up arms to come and free the country,” it is stated in his memoirs.

Shipanga associated a lot with politically enlightened students like Geingob, Hamutenya, the late Theo-Ben Gurirab and Tjitendero particularly with the view to abolish Bantu education.

He raised the protest against Bantu education; the absence of a university in Namibia, and difficulties for Namibian students to obtain passports to study abroad and the oppressive South West Africa Native Association (SWANLA) contract labour system; with the United Nations during a visit of two UN officials to Augustineum.  SWANLA was an exploitative system which promoted the sale of black people like slaves to work on Boers farms. “I have personally handed in our petition in secret to Mr. Carpio (a UN official),” he said in his memoirs.

Shipanga is also the pioneer of Katutura Hospital after he mobilised funds from Germany to help build the hospital because black Namibians then had no hospital and were being treated inside corrugated sheets.

Shipanga was born in 1931 at Okapya, in Oshana until his aunt Bertha Sakarias brought him to Luderitz where he was raised and obtained his education. He started working as a teacher at Rhynse Sending Wambo School in Luderitz until 1948 before he was appointed the first black teacher at Augustineum. He founded educational projects such as Concordia Secondary School and Shifidi Secondary School.

He was a member of the first Delimitation Commission and founding member of the Electoral Commission of Namibia.

He is survived by his wife Eveline Ndapewa Shipanga, four daughters, Ipula Damases, Elizabeth Tjauha, Tuyeni Heuva and Martina Tumeinge Towye.