Emerging Historical Themes
At a time when tarred roads did not extend to Jan Jonker Road, or even the full eastern extent of old Gobabisweg, and when no one imagined Windhoek’s main street being named Sam Nujoma Drive, the City of Windhoek gave the Cathedral parish of Windhoek twelve hectares to establish a white, boys-only school. Bishop Rudolph Koppmann approached the General Board of the CMI in Tilburg to run the school, Rome sanctioned the request and in 1962 the school was officially dedicated. From these beginnings grew a school whose history has unfolded against a tapestry of enormous national, regional and international change. St Paul’s has stayed the course and often set the pace for the last half a century.
Founded in Love
Caritate Fundati (Founded in Love) became the school’s motto and an integral part of the school’s philosophy from the beginning. The missionaries were keen to open a school and hostel for white boys as they felt it would attract farmers’ children and allow them easier access to farm workers.
The first principal, Brother Ernestus Smulders was tragically killed in a car accident in 1964, but he had set the tone for the school to continue. Brother Sebastianus van Seters, also a founder, is remembered by many for his involvement in swimming and his insistence on beautiful handwriting. He left St Paul’s in 1994 to found a new school, St Boniface in Rundu, also known for its excellent academic record.
Do the Right Thing
Brother Hermenegildus Beris became principal in 1966 after Brothers Joseph Calasanctius and Immanuel filled the interregnum. As head of the school till 1990, Brother Hermenegildus’ leadership was formative. Brother administered, taught, elevated the academic profile of the College, coached the school band, developed sports codes and facilities such as a soccer field (digging up part of the vineyard), tennis and netball courts and saw the library’s collection of books grow. Under his leadership, the school admitted its first students of colour in 1977, but as a non-racial school, St Paul’s was not allowed to compete with certain other schools and the Administration withdrew its financial subsidy. “Though difficult in the beginning” Brother recalls, “in the end it paid off”. It was a proud moment when the school band was asked to be a part of the independence celebrations and marched down newly named Independence Avenue.
Leader of the Pack
Chris Sexon became principal in 1991 and instigated the International General Certificate in Education (Cambridge IGCSE). The Ministry had begun considering new educational syllabi and began a test run of the IGCSE in selected schools in 1992. St Paul’s showed its homegrown talent could fare well against the rest of the world and set the bar for the rest of the country. This was acknowledged by President Nujoma who spoke at the Thirtieth celebrations.
Mr Philip Hawke (1994 – 1997) continued on a much needed building development. The A-Level Centre, now a section of the Primary School was built, which gave parents the confidence of a desired school leaving certificate for their children. Parents of communities, who did not normally support the College, took an interest. The school now had 375 pupils.
Growth, Development and Extension
With Phil Hawke as principal and Gerry Hill as deputy from the end of 1992, St Paul’s saw a time of academic development and consolidation. As more lay teachers were employed, school fees were increased, but nevertheless, the Advanced Level Programme was introduced, the new A Level Institute blessed, and the library injected with many new books bought from the proceeds of the Bazaar. The Parent body, always important supporters, played a tremendous fundraising role at this time and with their financial help and Phil and Gerry’s input, extra-mural activities of all sorts, but especially cultural ones, flourished. When Phil Hawke left St Paul’s, the new principal, Malcolm McArthur paid tribute saying “St Paul’s is a healthy, vibrant educational institution with a dedicated staff committed to bring out the best for each student”. Others knew Phil as the “Headmaster who built”.
In Africa for Africa
Mr Malcolm McArthur was a much loved leader from 1998 – 2002. He was the “people’s” principal, who focused on the wellbeing of the person. He changed the old prefect system to an SMC body. Under his leadership the Primary School classes were moved to the renovated buildings in Jan Jonker Street, which were formerly accommodation for the ground staff. This was built with the help of donations.
Global teachers, Growing School
Mr Robert Church, a visionary, was principal from 2002 – 2013. The SMC Recreational Centre (Rec Centre) was built during his tenure, the buildings of which were soon sucked into the school as classrooms. In 2004 the St Paul’s College Primary School was extended downwards to incorporate Grades 1 – 4.
The first female principal was Dr Becky Ojo. Her interest and aspirations in politics soon obliged her to choose a career in politics. She was later the Deputy Minister of Higher Education.
That is when Mrs Ellen Gudde took over the leadership of the College. The responsibility for the top school in Namibia with over 600 pupils and 90 staff members weighed heavily. Together with dedicated staff and parents we weathered the storms of the challenges of building the Br Hermenegildus Higher Centre.
Today Mr Iain Guthrie is at the helm – and history will tell more about his tenure.