Elli Glevey obituary

Other lives: Lecturer in education keen to build links with African scholars

My friend Elli Glevey, who has died aged 62 of cancer, was a passionate educator and philosopher dedicated to building links between the UK and Africa. Through his work at the Institute of Education, in London, Elli made a real impact in the field in the UK, but he was determined equally to make a contribution in his home country, Ghana.

Born in Accra, shortly after Ghanaian independence, Elli was the son of Gabriel Gleveh, an official in Kwame Nkrumah’s government, and Gladys (nee Atta Nee Boleh), who ran an import business. Elli’s first passion was music, starting with highlife and moving on to jazz. He came to London in 1977 and, along with various odd jobs, played saxophone as a session musician. As well as music, he wrote poetry and sketched throughout his life.

In 1989 he met Sarah Divall, a GP, at an art exhibition, and they married in 1996. He introduced her to a network of jazz clubs and community centres including Ronnie Scott’s and the Africa Centre, where he and I would have passionate discussions over a beer at the bar.

In 1985 Elli took a BSc in mathematics at SouthBank University, followed by a PGCE. His first job as a maths teacher was at Dunraven secondary school in Streatham (1989-94). He taught the subject at various London schools and colleges while also doing an MA in philosophy and maths education (1992-94) followed by a PhD in philosophy of education (1994-2002), both at the Institute of Education, where he was appointed a lecturer, then course leader, in mathematics education (2002-2005). He also taught at London Metropolitan University. In 2016, when already diagnosed with cancer, he added an MA in law and human rights from Birkbeck College.

Elli’s intellectual interests were wide: education for him was about developing thinking skills, social justice and differential attainment; he was deeply interested in politics and economics, particularly in relation to the condition and future of Africa. In fact his heart remained in Africa and he wanted to use his talents for the continent’s benefit – he frequently visited Ghana, planning conferences and a college there.

In the early 2000s he played a major role in a project to send books to Accra University, which he knew was short of resources. Later, he established the African Philosophy of Education Network (APEN), and encouraged academic philosophers from Ghana and elsewhere to join. He was a keen trustee of the Leggatt Trust, which supports African education projects.

After leaving teaching he published three books, Thinking and Education (2006), On Being African (2012) and Imagine the African Future (2018).

He is survived by Sarah and their children, Dela, Will and Leo.

Nigel Watt

The GuardianTramp

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