He is a self made man who knows not the word impossible. As a child Abebe was severely crippled by polio and because of it did not attend school. Determined to have an education he eventually managed to go to school as a teenager only to find that he had a gift for teaching others. He later became the local schoolteacher and earned the respect of the community. Today Abebe has a university degree in teaching and works in the schoolhouse he built himself. He lives with his wife and two children in Tema, New Town.
I first met Abebe when I was in Ghana to prepare for my theater production - Cinderama, the African Cinderella at the Ghana National Theater. He immediately became a source of great inspiration to me for the simple fact that where others saw obstacles Abebe saw only possibilities. There was nothing Abebe had set out to do in life that he had not achieved, no matter how long it took.
His own life was a testimony to that fact as he had overcome great challenges in pursuit of a much desired education despite being disabled. In his community Abebe was a well respected man, but when he travelled people were often surprised to see a disabled man carry himself with so much dignity and pride. In Ghana most disabled people are forced to beg in the streets as they cannot find work and usually have no one to support them. But in Abebes family it is he who is the provider.
Early on Abebe knew he wanted to be a teacher and that he wanted to build a school in his community in Tema New Town just outside of Accra, the capital of Ghana. The school is not a big one, but the schoolchildren are plenty and there is a staff of a few teachers, including Abebes wife. The building itself, walls and roof, as well as the wooden benches the children sit in are all products of Abebes own hands.
The children all come from the area and are sons and daughters of local fishermen. The life of Ghanaian fishermen is hard and gives little money. Thus the school fees are meagre and far between, yet somehow Abebe and his wife, Godslove, manage to pay their teachers a modest salary, give the children lunch everyday and purchase a few necessary schoolbooks.
But Abebe has one big problem. The school does not own the land it stands on. Each year Abebe negotiates with the landowner, well knowing that the school lies in an area that has become increasingly attractive, and pleads with him not to raise the rent further.
Abebe told me that he fears that the landowner one day will terminate the contract without any regards for the need of the children. Abebes dream is to buy some land and there build a better and improved school structure with room for more children. When I heard this I promised to help him fulfil that dream!
Project location: Stockholm, Sweden