Samuel (Sammy) O’Brien Newman: A tribute

Home Focus Samuel (Sammy) O’Brien Newman: A tribute

April 25, 2019 marked the death of a giant in education and, ironically, on the same day 109 students graduated as teachers at the Unam Southern Campus.          

The graduation ceremony, which I attended, saw moving words Unam Vice-Chancellor Prof. Kenneth Matengu who said that graduates should always have mutual respect, professionalism, integrity and accountability and act with dedication in all that they do. 

His words described Sammy O’Brien Newman who died the same day after 35 years of teaching in Lüderitz. Sammy started his teaching in 1959 at the Roman Catholic Mission School. His mother, Patience (or Moekie as she was very fondly called) was the principal at this school. Sammy started teaching a combined class of standards 2 and 3 (today’s grades 4 and 5). Sammy was such a good teacher that his learners from grades 4 and 5 later became teachers themselves and taught under him as he later followed in his mother’s footsteps to become the principal of the Roman Catholic School until 1974.
With the completion of a brand new school in Nautilus, Sammy became the first principal of the new Nautilus Primary School in 1975 until his retirement in 1992. 

The new school, Nautilus Primary School, combined the Anglican Church School and the Roman Catholic Church School, with Sammy as principal and Simon Grimbeeck (who was the principal at the Anglican Church School), as the vice-principal.  Personally as a learner in his school, I remember him as a compassionate teacher and principal who gave himself and devoted his time for the benefit of the community although under difficult circumstances, he always reflected his surname, and did all things with patience.  I therefore want to assure the entire family that the loss of this great man and giant educator is not just their loss but our loss as well – but let us forever keep his memory and those who went before him alive by being honest, hardworking and vigilant in what we say and do. We miss him already and embrace the words of prophet Kahlil Gibran that “If he is indeed wise, he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind”.

Sammy has been a candle in the light for others and has opened new doors for us as his learners, teachers and his community.  Often we forget the selflessness of great men and women and their impact and contributions while they are still alive. It is only after death that we regret that we did not do enough to recognise their contributions during their lifetime.  This weakness often leaves us with an everlasting and perpetual pain. I was reading a newspaper the other day and came across an article that specifically spoke about naming public institutions after a person and certain criterial – including the character and fundamental principles of such persons – that would qualify then to be named after a public institution. 

Such principles include loyalty, honesty, perseverance, hard work, commitment, genius, exemplary etc. I hope that those fallen legends of the Nautilus Primary School prevail.  Sammy, we salute you for having lived a life full of meaning and purpose. Your life, just like those of who went before you, has enriched all of us. You were indeed a great educator in our time and your call of crossing the border has come. That border is crossed but once. Go in peace and may your soul rest in perfect peace. Reverend Jan. A. Scholtz is a holder of Diploma in Theology, B-Theo (SA), a Diploma in Youth Work and Development from the University of Zambia (UNZA), and BA (HED) from UNISA. This article is written in his personal capacity.