The 12-year-old died in the Katutura State Hospital, Windhoek, after battling for years with the HIV/AIDS virus that she was born with, just a little over two months before her 13th birthday.
The Patriot last year reported about her condition when her single mother pleaded for help from Good Samaritans to assist the family with food items and supplements to boost her immune system.
Helena was diagnosed with the virus in December 2014 when she started getting ill regularly. Her mother, Anna Shipola, says when she discovered that she was pregnant with Helena she went for an HIV test in the north.
“I could not get my results because I had to come to Windhoek,” she said during an interview this newspaper last year.
Helena was put on anti-retroviral medication when she was 10, meaning for the first 10 years of her life she was not given any medication. Shipola says ever since Helena’s diagnosis, it has not been easy for her [Helena], as she has been in and out of hospital.
She was first admitted to the hospital in October 2015 when she was diagnosed with anaemia.
The Patriot this week visited the school and spoke to some of her teachers and classmates.
Helena, who was a Grade 7 learner at Bet-El Primary School in Windhoek, was described by teachers at the school as a hardworking, dedicated and committed learner.
Her Grade 5 English teacher, Christeline Harakuta, described her as a very good, committed and neat learner, who never missed a day of school. “Whenever she was absent all the teachers would know she is not well. She was always smiling, no matter how sick she was there was always a smile on her face even if you asked how she was doing she would say that she was fine although one could see that she was not.”
Harakuta noted that whenever they told Helena to go home whenever she was not feeling well, she would respond that she has nothing to go do at home and that she wanted to finish school to go to university for further studies.
At times when she fell ill during school hours, the teachers always let her sleep somewhere in a life skill’s teacher’s office and after school she would go back home. “Even if you told her not to come to school, she would always come, therefore, she was a very committed and excellent learner, who had time for her school work compared to the other learners.
“From the teachers’ side, we stood together and some of the teachers even went out of their way to go and visit her parents. At our school, we have a very good team with the school secretary who would always go around seeing how Helena was and always brought something for her to eat. Some learners also took good care of Helena. They would even be the ones to tell you that Helena was not doing fine whenever you entered the school premises,” said Harakuta.
Teachers at the school said they have lost someone very young who could have become a doctor or a lawyer. “She has set a very good example even for us as teachers that even when you are sick you must try to come to work and also I would like to say to the mother, it was not only her family’s loss but ours as well. May her soul rest in peace.”
Hambeleleni Paulus has been Helena’s classmate since Grade One and describes her as a very kind person who liked sharing jokes with her. “I would always feel happy whenever she was around me and I feel really bad losing my friend,” said Paulus.
As a friend, Paulus narrated how she would assist Helena by carrying her school bag. “I always stood by her,” she said.
Paulus says that she last saw her friend when the school closed for the August holiday last year. “I would like the Lord to let her rest in peace and I would also like to say that she was a good friend who was always there for me as I was there for her at all times. I will miss her very much.”
As a culture, the school’s authorities said a financial contribution was made to the family.
Helena will be laid to rest tomorrow.