Isahac Teweldemedhin was born on August 27th 1889 In Ghelab, a small village in Eritrea. His father was Pastor Teweldemedhin Ghebremedhin, who studied Theology in Sweden in 1887 and who was one of the founders of the Evangelical Churches in Eritrea. His Mother, Ametu, was the daughter of Pastor Zeratsion also a Protestant theologist. He was the oldest of a family of six, with one brother and two sisters. His brother Ephrem Teweldemedhin was a Civil servant and diplomat under the regime of Emperor Haile Sellassie Ist of Ethiopia.
Isahac was educated at the schools of the Swedish Evangelical Missions (SEM) in Gheleb and Asmara. In 1913, he continued his higher education at the American University in Beiruth and later in Florence, Italy.
Coming back to Eritrea from his studies abroad, he started teaching at the Swedish Evangelical Mission schools in Eritrea until the colonial government of Italy, shut down all SEM schools. At this time, Isahac moved to a small town called Merara and to earn his living he bought a piece of land and became an entrepreneur. This was during World War II.
In post War Eritrea, during the British Occupation, Major Kinneston Snell became the Head of Education in Eritrea. After hearing about Isahac’s competency as one of the foremost educated Eritrean he went to Merara to meet and ask Isahac’s assistance to reorganize the educational system in Eritrea. Isahac then returned to Asmara and while teaching, and writing issues related to pedagogy in the Tigrigna (Eritrean) language he also played a major roll in recruiting and training elementary school teachers in Eritrea with heart and soul.
Isahac began writing articles, sayings, stories etc., and in 1944, he was one of the team who set up a symposium with the purpose of discussing the standardization of the writing and pronunciation of Tigrigna letters and words. During that year he also published the first book of arithmetic in Tigrigna, when he became the first Eritrean innovator in the field of abbreviations, equivalents of weights, measures and also the standardization of punctuation marks in Tigrigna.
Isahac initiated and promoted the first Girls’ school in Asmara in 1944, Eritrea as well as in some other villages. He was also one of the active members in the establishment of Middle School in Asmara.
In the 1950’s, after Major Snell, left Eritrea, Isahac became the Head of Education in Eritrea, and he worked with heart and soul to promote education even to the remote villages of Eritrea.
In the Eritrean history, Isahac was a famous publicist, teacher and educator and a person full of educative humor. Isahac was also an active member of the Evangelical Church in Asmara.
Isahac Teweldemedhin passed away on July 8th 1978 in Asmara. “Isahac Teweldemedhin Secondary School” in Asmara is named after him.
Rosa Holmer, “Isahac Teweldemedhin: Nagra Bilder Ur Hans Handelserika Liv”, 1938.
Isahac Teweldemedhin , “A Short Reader in Tigrinja– Forty-four Stories”, Asmara 1943
Isahac Teweldemedhin, “Beginner’s Arithmetic in Tigrinja”, Asmara 1944
Yishak Yoseph, “A Short Biography of the Teacher Isahac Teweldemedhin: War on Illiteracy”, Asmara 1986
Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, Vol. 5, hrsg. von A. Bausi und S. Uhlig, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2014, 63-64.
Credits to Emnetu Tesfay