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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Namibia: Bare bones, big outcomes

Where graduation is a ticket to a once unreachable destination

The entrance looks promising enough. A starch-white concrete monolith announces "Oshigambo High School," along with a proud, blue crest. But inside, long cracks and gaping holes in classroom walls have been repeatedly patched. Wires dangle from rickety fluorescent lights. The books and supplies carefully stacked in corners are years old. Triple locks go on doors at night to keep thieves at bay in this forgotten corner of the desert.

Jerry Schutz, a member of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Olympia, Wash., was overcome. He was part of a seven-member Southwestern Washington Synod delegation that visited the boarding school in Oshigambo, in northern Namibia in May. "I guess I've become used to seeing the environments my grandchildren have and the abundance of study and resource materials they are blessed with," he said.

Students Maria T. Nangolo and Eliaser
Students Maria T. Nangolo and Eliaser Shitaatala pose outside Oshigambo [Namibia] High School. She wants to be a doctor, he an engineer. The school, run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia, has produced many leaders and is celebrating its 50th year.
It is "an environment over which most American parents and teachers would scream bloody murder," said delegation member D. Randall Faro, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Chehalis, Wash.

Yet in this unlikely place, seeded by Finnish missionaries and raised by Lutherans worldwide during Namibia's struggle for independence from apartheid South Africa, God's miracle of unparalleled education has occurred for 50 years.

It's a place where top teachers securely stow Christian teachings in students' souls and where the country's brightest math and science pupils go on to become Namibia's top professional, corporate and political leaders — all the way up to Prime Minister Nahas Angula.


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