Unam honours Karasburg nun

A lifetime of dedication to education was crowned with an honorary doctorate from the University of Namibia yesterday.

16 May 2018 | Education

The University of Namibia yesterday conferred an honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree on 89-year-old Catholic nun Sister Paule Elizabeth Atiogbe during its Southern Campus graduation ceremony at Keetmanshoop.

Born at Lüderitz in 1929, Sister Atiogbe began her career as a teacher in 1948 and selflessly served until her retirement in 1991.

“After her decision to become a nun, she was appointed as school principal at Pella in the Republic of South Africa for three and half years.

“In 1960 she returned to Karasburg and replaced the principal there until 1975. During this period, our candidate confronted the evils of apartheid with firmness.

“Using education, Sister Atiogbe began changing lives through a process we can call talent sprouting – the ability to bring to birth people's talents and capacity,” reads the motivation by Unam's pro-vice chancellor for research, innovation and development, Professor Kenneth Matengu.

Former students had petitioned the university to recognise Sister Atiogbe's tireless contribution towards education.

Matengu yesterday told the congregation that the decision to confer the honorary degree upon Sister Atiogbe was made after a thorough investigation of her life.

“This inquiry demanded that I follow the path of her life from her home town of Luderitz through to her lengthy and meandering route first between Namibia and South Africa; then within Namibia, and between Namibia and Europe.

“It involved examining her experience of a four-day trip by train to South Africa at a tender age of twelve years, to her time at college; as a teacher; as a novice; as a school principal; as a catholic nun and her service to the field of education and to the poor until today in retirement,” said Matengu.

Sister Atiogbe, who started her education at the age of six at the Roman Catholic Primary school in Lüderitz, completed grade 10 at St Joseph's Aliwal North in South Africa and eventually enrolled for a teaching diploma at St Augustine College in Cape Town and graduated in 1947.

She majored in English and Afrikaans, graduating with merit. She started her teaching career at the Karasburg Roman Catholic Primary School as a young graduate where she served until 1951 and moved to Mariental where she stayed for a year.

Matengu added that during the time Sister Atiogbe spent in Mariental, she participated in a retreat in which all teachers spent time with the Catholic Father and it was here that her life was changed forever and she felt the Lord's calling to commit to serving him.

“Convinced that education was the greatest equaliser, Sister Atiogbe became a teacher immediately after graduating. This decision was made out of conviction that Africans and black Namibians in particular, should not be relegated to manual labourers but that they needed to be given an equal opportunity to education.

“She then decided to become a religious sister. After her decision to become a nun, she was appointed as school principal at Pella in the Republic of South Africa for three and half years. In 1960 she returned to Karasburg and replaced the principal there until 1975,” he said.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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