With immigration and asylum seekers high on the agenda of governments throughout Europe, the life story of Dr Teame Mebrahtu is a timely reminder of a positive side of what has become a contentious and potentially divisive issue. It is a truly remarkable and inspiring story.
Dr Mebrahtu, born in the village of Adi Ghehad in the Eritrean Highlands, was a leading teacher trainer in his country but was forced to leave when his life was in danger in the 1970s.
The book first traces his early life in Eritrea, then part of Ethiopia, his efforts to get an education – the first in his family to do so – his involvement in student demonstrations against the government of Emperor Haile Selassie, resulting in imprisonment, and his rise to become Director of the Asmara Teacher Training Institute amidst the political unrest and bloodshed of the Eritrean liberation struggle. He was an eyewitness to the moment Haile Selassie was deposed.
During this time he had been developing his philosophy of teaching, first as a teacher then a teacher trainer, which was to mark the rest of his career. He firmly believes the welfare of students is an essential precursor to academic success.
When his life came under threat, he managed to leave the country to study for a PhD at Bristol. Within a year of arriving he was ordered back to Addis Ababa by the Mengistu regime. Sensing his life was again in danger, he refused and applied for and was granted asylum. Although entitled to state benefits, he declined saying he had not earned them. Instead, he persuaded local schools to let him talk to pupils about Africa and the Africans bringing new understanding of those with a different culture. His popular talks won him a grant from the Rowntree Trust.
While the Eritrean liberation war raged, he raised support for refugees fleeing the fighting and living in camps in Sudan. He visited the camps advising on schooling for the refugee children. Later he went to train teachers in the Zero School set up in caves in liberated parts of Eritrea, braving the Ethiopian MiGs.
After obtaining his PhD, he joined the staff of the Bristol Graduate School of Education where, for 24 years, he became a respected senior academic and adviser to international students – many of whom went on to have leading roles in the education system of their countries. He has become a valued member of his local community. An acknowledged expert on multicultural education and the problems of refugees, he has provided advice and valuable insights from his own experience during the troubled history of Eritrea and whilst establishing a new life in Britain.
Stan Hazell’s career spanned 40 years as a print and broadcast journalist, first as a newspaper reporter in South Wales, and later producing regional news and current affairs programmes for ITV in the West of England.
Read more at Stan Hazell’s author page.
Keywords: Asylum Seeker, Refugees, Teacher Training, Dr Teame Mebrahtu