Kebana Adventist School is the first Adventist School in Ethiopia. It is located on a two-acre piece of land in the Kebana Adventist Mission compound, near Kebana River in Addis Ababa. Since the compound is on the hilly side of the Kebana River, it is very cold for most of the year. Hence its name Kebana, which means cold.
The school was started by Aksel Valdemar Emil Toppenberg from Denmark. He was the first missionary to Ethiopia. It was established on a property purchased from the English legation secretary in 1921. Formal classes commenced in 1922 when construction of classrooms was complete.1
Toppenberg handed over the operation of the school to Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Sorensen from the United States, the second missionary family, who arrived in Ethiopia in 1923. Since both the husband and wife were trained teachers, they took charge of the operation of Kebena Adventist School which was a primary school for boys. This family ran the school for only one year and was replaced by Carl Jenson, who continued to lead the school until 1927. From 1928 to 1930, the operation of the school was suspended for unknown reasons. At this time Mrs. Gudmundsun, wife of the acting president of the mission, collected a few girls, and with the help of Marie Hassender, a Swiss nurse, conducted a small school.2
When the Sorenson family returned from furlough in September 1931, they brought with them Miss Mae Matthews from the United States, who was to open a girls’ school. The school was reopened in January 1932 with the name Kebana Girls’ School. Even though the school was opened as girls’ school, it accepted boys too. The school functioned as both a boarding and day school.3 The first year, seven girls enrolled as boarding students. Several other girls came to day school, but the students who attended were mostly boys. As years went by, more students enrolled until the limited space was full.4
In 1939 the school was closed by the occupying Italian forces, as were many other mission schools. As a result, the missionaries were forced to evacuate the compound and they lived in humble houses around Kechene Medhanialem where they continued to operate a small school until 1941.5 On June 1, 1941, after the Italians were evicted from the country, the Ethiopian government returned the Kebana property to the mission and the school resumed operation. This was the first school to be opened in Addis Ababa after the occupation. The school was at first operated as a co-educational institution. Then the boys were moved to another location in the Ginfle area. Pastor H. Hanson was in charge of the boys’ school; but the girls’ school continued to operate in the Kebana Mission compound.6
For the next ten years the school continued to grow until it had an enrollment of approximately 200 girls, making it the second in size and importance in Addis Ababa, next to Her Majesty’s Girls’ School.7
Since Kebana Adventist School was located on only two acres of land, its opportunity for growth and expansion was limited. The Ethiopia Union Mission realized the challenge the school faced and decided to move it to Akaki, which in 1950 was a high school for boys.8
Kebana Adventist School has experienced times of prosperity and adversity. The 1960s and 1970s were times of prosperity because several new buildings were built with the help of the Swedish government, and this enabled the school to accept more students. Student enrollment showed remarkable growth, thus enabling the school to be financially stable. There were also times of adversity when the school was almost totally closed.
Currently the school is a day school that hosts kindergarten, primary, and secondary school (KG-10) and has a total of 710 students and 38 teachers.
Manuel Sorenson (1923); Carl Jenson (1924-1927); Alemu Gobeze (1976-1980); Abebe Lentiso (1981-1982); Ethiopia Tadese (1983); Beyene Ogato (1984); Gebre Worancha (1985-1986); Gebre Asefa (1986-1987); Yoseph Soboka (1994); Yohannes Demkaso (1995-1998); Edgigu Tiruneh (1998-1999); Zerihun Awano (2000-2004); Degefe Mekonnen (2005-2013); Yemisirach Yoseph (2014-2018); Tegegn Ersino (2019-present).
Dolicho, Mulugeta, Alemu Haile, et al. Brief History of the Establishment of Kebana Adventist School. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Ethiopian Advent Press, 1986.
WoldeSelassie, Tiruneh. Adventism in Ethiopia, the Incredible Saga of the Beginning and Progress of the Seventh-day Adventist Work in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Finfine Printing & Publishing S.C., 2005.
Mulugeta Dolicho, Alemu Haile, et al., Brief History of the Establishment of Kebana Adventist School (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Ethiopian Advent Press, 1986), 4.↩
Ibid., 4, 5.↩
Tiruneh WoldeSelassie, Adventism in Ethiopia, the incredible saga of the beginning and progress of the Seventh-day Adventist work in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Finfine Printing & Publishing S.C., 2005), 237.↩
Mae Mathews Nielsen, Kebana Mission School, 1.↩