By Chris Jacobie
NAMIBIANS mourns the loss of ‘Meester’ Martin (Lazarus) Shipanga who became a national symbol and is one of the last remaining bridges on the journey from liberation to independence and nationhood.
Meester Shipanga is arguably famous and most revered for his total dedication to a life of education, the timeless value of self-discipline and dignified demeanour, while he could have boasted to have been a teacher of presidents, ministers, famous warriors and entrepreneurs and being an inspiration to countless Namibians that were inspired by him to become teachers themselves.
His departure has shaken the rocks of dedication and great values that make nations great.
Meester Martin, who has suffered great personal tragedy himself, carried the burden and comforted others while he should have been comforted. He left a hole in the soul of the nation and gives meaning to the saying that “we will not know what we have until we have lost it”.
Only the exceptional can take up the flag that the warrior of education left on the battlefield. It is not often that it can be said that Namibia could have benefitted from him for 88 years more.
It is not difficult to imagine Meester Shipanga educating and lecturing the angels – under a tree in Paradise – on the best qualities that mankind should possess. He would have preferred to have more time to perfect education of soul, mind and body before he answered the call for duty in yonder.
In the coming days, much will be said about his educational career, his political contributions and the shaping of leaders on all levels of society.
History will always revere this favourite and humble Namibian icon who touched a part of the soul of every person and those who had the privilege to spend even the smallest amount of time in his presence.
The greatest tragedy of Meester Shipanga’s departure to a higher calling is one less living monument as a signpost of humility and humanity on Namibia’s never-ending march towards unity and reconciliation, regardless challenges, but for all.
No amount of words and achievements can do justice to Meester Shipanga’s memory and it will take generations who passed through his hands to collectively do right by him.
A staunch opponent of Apartheid, Meester will be remembered for his remarkable court testimony in defence of four (white) teachers of Windhoek Gymnasium who were found guilty of common assault after they participated in corporal punishment of a learner.
At that stage, the 84-year-old Meester Shipanga made history by insisting to give evidence in Afrikaans.
The former teacher, at the height of President Hage Geingob’s popularity in 2015, testified that he had taught Dr Geingob and did not spare the rod.
He testified in Afrikaans: “Selfs Dr Hage het pak slae gekry op skool en hy noem my vandag nog Meester.”
Yesterday, Dr Geingob was one of the first to offer messages of condolences to the Shipanga family for their loss.
Meester Shipanga, who braved Bantu-education, Apartheid, Independence and a new education after independence, went through the ranks, from primary school teacher to headmaster and eventually to Inspector of Education. His crowning moment was initiating the building of Immanuel Shiffidhi Secondary School before independence in honour of Immanuel Shiffidhi who had died at the hands of South African security forces.
Namibians don’t only mourn a giant. In the time of politics of faction and tribalism, he is a reminder that dignity, humanity and dedication are the values that anchors Namibian society.
He was a warrior of peace and respect and for that, he deserves the thousands of accolades that family, friends and comrades will bestow on him and that history will generously accept.
And when the angels return at the end of time, Namibians will remember that they could have been educated by Meester Shipanga, a man who soldiered on, because he believed and lived a life where there was more good than bad and where adversity must be met head-on.
It is a priceless legacy and forever the best lesson that Meester Shipanga left for the generations to come.
Namibia’s loss is the gain of the angels and heavens and for his ancestors: A favourite son came home.