Founder and principal retires after 19 years

10 May 2021 | People

TUNOHOLE MUNGOBA

OKALONGO

Josephine Shipopyeni, who founded Ouvale Combined School at Okalongo in 2002, has retired as principal after a 36-year career in the education sector.

Born in 1961 in Onokolo village in the Omusati Region, Shipopyeni was appointed by James Haufiku, education inspector of Okalongo, in 2002 to establish a school at Okalongo.

What started out as a school with only 57 grade one learners taught in an open area with no water and electricity, Ouvale Combined School grew and is now one of the best-performing schools in the grade 10 national secondary school examinations.

Shipopyeni studied at Ongwediva College.

“My first job as a teacher was from 1985 to 1990 at Omfitu YaNoyala Combined School, which was in my homestead in Omusati Region. I was then transferred to Epoko Combined School in the Okalongo circuit in 1991,” she says.

She later left teaching for five years to further her education at Ongwediva College.

“By then, I was also the educational facilitator for grade one to three countrywide,” she says.

Small beginnings

In January 2002, she was appointed to establish Ouvale Combined School and she was teaching the grade one class alone until June, when one more teacher joined her.

“In October, I was appointed as school principal and we later extended grade one to grade three. We also employed four more teachers,” she said.

In 2008, Shipopyeni received a scholarship from the Teachers’ Circuit College under Great Zimbabwe where she studied full-time for two years.

The school grew rapidly and they currently have 675 learners, from grade one to grade 10.

Shipopyeni faced many hurdles to get the school up to standard and it often involved negotiating with community members.

“In the beginning, I had to ask permission from the Angolan police controlling the border to go and pick wood to fence the school with. When the Chinese were building around the area, I would also ask them to assist with getting our road nice and smooth for cars,” she says.

Academic success

Ouvale Combined School has performed well in recent years. In 2017, the first year the school entered candidates for the grade 10 examinations, they achieved a 72.5% pass rate and in 2018, they achieved an 85.7% pass rate.

The school now has 20 classrooms, six of which were built by the parents and school community.

“I feel that I should take responsibility for children to make sure they have a bright future. I hate seeing children in the streets being denied an education due to their circumstances. I believe that education is the key to eliminating poverty,” Shipopyeni says.

She says education will always have a special place in her heart and continues to serve as a school advisor for her school. She will spend her time developing her community by focusing on politics and farming.

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