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The Nkala Family Shipley Story: More than Just a Color

Kathy Smith
Call it providence. Call it what you will. But when Bruce Nkala and Harriet Okatch visited a basketball tournament and saw the “baby blue” colors of one of the unknown teams, Bruce said, “I’m going to work for that school.”

That particular color blue was the color of Bruce and Harriet’s country’s flag: Botswana. And while they didn’t know the name of the school, they immediately felt a keen affinity.

Fast forward two years as Harriet received her degree in public health from the University of Pennsylvania and the family prepared to head back to Botswana. Bruce, a coach and substitute teacher at Shipley and other area schools, received an offer he could not refuse: a full-time position as a teacher and coach at Shipley—the very school that wore that color.

Their children, Jasmyne ’19 and Jaison ’23, soon followed. “Jasmyne was very quiet. Shipley has changed all that,” explains Bruce. “The small class sizes allow her to form intimate relationships with faculty and other students. They give her confidence to speak out. Shipley has increased her confidence level 1000%.”

The effect was the opposite for Jaison. “Jaison is an extrovert,” explains Harriet. “In a small classroom setting, Jaison has had to learn that the classroom is the time to learn and focus.”

While Bruce and Harriet miss Botswana, they are deeply committed to the Shipley community. They have facilitated an exchange program between a school in Botswana and Shipley, due to begin next year.

Speaking of her experience and all of the substantive things she has learned since she and Bruce were first drawn to the uniform’s color, Harriet says, “We would not, for anything, take Jasmyne and Jaison out of Shipley.”
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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.