Long Way from Adi Ghehad: A Powerful and Inspiring Story of an Asylum Seeker
- Kamran Mofid
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‘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.’
A Highly Recommended Book
“Stories of outstanding people, who overcome great adversity, encounter almost impossible odds in rising from humble beginnings in remote villages to become noteworthy citizens of the world, form part of the most uplifting areas of literature. Such individuals and their life experiences in following a powerful mission to improve human-kind, provide exemplars of how to live a truly good life. This account of the life of Dr Teame Mebrahtu is undoubtedly part of that pantheon of biographies.”- Professor Malcolm Johnson, University of Bristol
“Teame Mebrahtu is a man who received a special vocation and who has held on to it all his life: To be a teacher in the full meaning of the word… It is difficult to understand how it has been possible for one person to take on and to fulfill so many tasks. In his work he has not sought a personal career. In all of it we see a deep concern for people, which in the end is what counts in life. Take the book and read it!”- Prof. Arve Brunvoll, Bergen, Norway
“…This account is memorable. It is a salutary illustration of one man’s reasons for flight, of his desire to contribute to his host country, of his passion for education. At a time when refugees are regularly dehumanised in public discourse, this story shows how people of different cultures can find understanding and common ground.” - Fleur Houston, Reform Magazine
“An honest and genuine narration of Teame’s life long devotion to the art of teaching coupled with a rare personality trait of ready empathy with the underdog.”- Tukue Woldeamlek, Retired Eritrean Educator
“[Dr Mebrahtu’s] views on “living with difference” point the way for diverse communities and cultures to come together in harmony and understanding and are therefore relevant to all of us in the Churches.”- John Singleton, Methodist Recorder
“A valuable resource for those seeking to understand the issues of immigration, the conflicting forces facing asylum seekers, and the challenges for countries where they gain sanctuary. Dr Mebrahtu’s reflections on the issues of immigration both for the immigrants and the host community, based on his own experience and that of the many other refugees he helped, are thought provoking.” - Henleaze & Westbury Voice