NOT many can earn a doctorate at 89 years, but the Roman Catholic nun, sister Paule Elizabeth Atiogbe, of the diocese of Keetmanshoop did.
The University of Namibia (Unam) on Monday during the inaugural graduation ceremony of its southern campus bestowed her with an honorary doctorate of philosophy in education in recognition of her exceptional dedication to education spanning over more than four decades, which contributed to the advancement of many Namibian children who passed through her hands.
Atiogbe attended her primary school at Lüderitz and her secondary education in South Africa. She then went on to do her teaching diploma at St Augustine in South Africa where she majored in English and Afrikaans.
After obtaining her qualification in education, she worked as a teacher and school principal both in Namibia and South Africa.
When asked what does this honorary degree mean to her in an interview with The Namibian, she replied in a soft tone, " it is a privilege and honour".
"I pray that our children can see that your way of living can mean something to others," she added. She told the youth that they must "remember always to exemplify with their way of life," while advising them that by reading continuously they will enrich their life and mind.
"At 89, I am still reading books and newspapers every day to enrich my knowledge," she stressed.
Atiogbe in her acceptance speech on Monday said she was "hesitant" to accept the honorary doctorate when news reached her of being nominated as the recipient.
She said she was overcome with a mixture of feelings when she was informed to have been nominated as an honorary degree recipient.
"Most of it, I cannot describe up to this day," she added.
Atiogbe, who lives at Karasburg, said she would continue to plough back in the community by continuing to gather financial resources to assist those in need to further their studies.
Introducing Atiogbe as a candidate for the honorary degree at Monday's graduation ceremony, Unam pro vice chancellor Kenneth Kamwi Matengu, said Atiogbe violated the then apartheid existing laws by ensuring that black students were mixed with other races at schools where she taught.
The pro vice chancellor said Atiogbe, who left for Matjieskloof in 1953 to become a religious sister and some years after that joined the Oblate Sisters of St Francis de Sales, during her teaching career, 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," he stated.
Matengu said she travelled to farms and small villages to encourage parents to ensure their children were educated.
"Perceived as a threat to means of production, she faced severe opposition from those who controlled the economy," he added. On retirement in 1991, said Matengu, Atiogbe travelled to Lumka, Benoni to train as a catechist.
She served the Keetmanshoop diocese in this role until 2003 when she retired for the second time.
But because of her concern for the suffering of the poor, the pro vice chancellor said, Atiogbe focussed on correspondence with benefactors in the United States of America, Germany and Austria to ensure the sorrow and grief of the needy were mimmised.
She still visits the poor and elderly every Wednesday to this day, he added, giving them instructions about the Bible, messages of Pope Francis, and sometimes distribute food and clothes.