Navarro College; Stop Ebola, Stop Stigmatization!

Listen to my Radio France Interview below:

Unless you live under a rock, you are probably aware of the ongoing Ebola epidemic  which has affected multiple countries, with some having widespread transmission (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone), and some with localized transmission (Nigeria, Spain, United States) and Senegal with a travel-associated case.

Of the countries listed above, only Nigeria and Senegal, have currently been declared Ebola free, with the CDC declaring that 1Persons who entered Nigeria on or after September 30, 2014 are not at risk for exposure to Ebola. Persons who entered Senegal on or after September 20, 2014 are not at risk for exposure to Ebola.”

Hence, it came as a shock when I got a call from a very close Nigerian friend of mine in Texas recently, that his brother-in-law along with some other Nigerians had been denied admission to a ‘Navarro College’ in Corsicana, Texas (which I was not even aware of its existence prior to that moment) based solely on being citizens of a country with Ebola cases, or in their words “Navarro College is not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.”

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While I had had some embarrassing moments myself based on people’s ignorance about Ebola , this was the first time that I was hearing that a university, which is supposed to be more objective was making a decision to ban all students from multiple countries based on apparent fear. This was even more ironic given that the students in this case were from Nigeria which had been declared Ebola-free (for now) and was a distance of 6525 miles away, yet Navarro College is located only 31 miles away from Dallas , Texas, which has an active Ebola case.

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It was not until I had seen the letters myself that I sprung into action on social media , and even then, lots of people found it difficult to believe despite my providing a snapshot of the letter. Many people have requested for a pdf of the actual letter which you can find here.

Since then, there has been lots of reactions on Twitter ranging from witty to serious, from surprise to shock. Some have asked that the issue be taken up legally, while some have themselves written to the Navarro College International Admissions  Officer whose details are available here . We have also gotten some of the affected students to write the school demanding an explanation and a reversal of the decision.

Some people have asked why the students cannot apply elsewhere (within or outside the USA), but I think those people miss the point. It is no longer about these young men and women who were wrongly discriminated against, but it is now about reversing that decision so that others do not resort to the same uninformed action. If during the civil rights movement, everyone had just resorted to applying elsewhere or joining a different bus when they were discriminated against, we would still be in the same situation today.

As one of the folks on Twitter who have taken it upon themselves to fight this said ” I have sent an email to the international programmes office of the school, with an official enquiry to this regard. I have also forwarded a complaint to the WHO International Health Regulations council, for further investigation and advise. This contravenes every international health and migration regulation that there is, and I hope that we can get more information, following investigation.”

What you can do to help!

1) You can write Navarro College through elizabeth.pillans@navarrocollege.edu and let them know Nigeria is Ebola-free, and  the fight against ebola worldwide will be won with education and information, not stigmatization!

2) You can share my facebook status which has the snapshot of the letter from the school. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10205114365962569&substory_index=0&id=1346702752

3) You can retweet my Twitter status about this case. https://twitter.com/idrisayobello/status/521444572820279296

4)You can tweet at Navarro College’s handle on Twitter @NavarroCollege ) expressing your displeasure at this action.

5) You can post on  Navarro College’s FB page https://www.facebook.com/NavarroCollege  expressing your displeasure at this action.

6) You can educate yourself and others about Ebola at the CDC site and also read this great short piece by Seth Godin

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that Ebola has been contained in Nigeria (please visit

).

No new cases of Ebola has been reported in Nigeria  since August 31 (please read the article entitled “Nigeria Has Successfully Contained Ebola, US Hopes To Learn From Their Response”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/09/nigeria-contains-ebola-outbreak_n_5959442.html).
Thank you

Idris Bello

October 13, 2014

Story Links:
Washington Post - Navarro College in Texas apologizes after rejecting Nigerian applicants over Ebola fears
NBC News – Texas College Rejects Nigerian Applicants, Cites Ebola Cases
Gawker - Texas College Rejects African Applicants Because It Fears Ebola
Chron – Texas college won’t admit students from countries with Ebola cases
MTV – Did This Texas College Really Reject A Nigerian Student Because Of Ebola?
The Daily Beast – Did A Texas College Deny Men Admittance Because Of Ebola?
CBS Local – Did A Texas College Deny Men Admittance Because Of Ebola?
Navarro College – Updates from the Director
CNBC – Texas college rejects Nigerian applicants, cites Ebola cases
Newser – Texas College Turns Down African Students Over Ebola
Vocativ – College Allegedly Rejects Nigerian Student Because of Ebola Fears
Bloomberg Business Week – A Texas College Rejects Nigerians Over Ebola Concerns
Corsicana Daily Sun – Navarro College sends rejection letters citing Ebola concerns
Slate – Texas College Rejects Nigerian Students, Says Won’t Accept Students From Ebola Countries
The Independent – Texas college rejects applicants from places with Ebola (Texas has Ebola)
Daily Mail – Texas college rejects application from Nigerian students because of Ebola
San Antonio – Texas college won’t admit students from countries with Ebola cases
Mediaite – Texas College Rejects African Applicants Because They’re from Ebola Land
Yahoo Finance – Texas college bans students from ‘Ebola countries’
Dallas News – Texas college says it’s rejecting all international students from countries with Ebola
Complex – Texas Community College Cites Ebola Fears in Rejection Letters to African Applicants
Mother Jones – Texas College Rejects Two Nigerian Applicants Because of Ebola Panic
Financial Times – Nigerian Twitter Campaign Informs the World About Ebola
Fox51 – ETX college confirms denying applicants due to Ebola fears
CBS19.TV – UPDATE: Navarro College doubles down on Ebola-related admissions ban

 

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Featured in August 2014 Vanity Fair Magazine ‘Spotlight on African Entrepreneurs’

http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2014/08/harambe-entrepreneur-alliance-africa-startups

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Harambee is Swahili for “Let’s pull together.” And the flourishing Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance lives up to its credo. The brainchild of 31-year-old Okendo Lewis-Gayle (second from left)—born in Costa Rica, raised in Italy, educated at Southern New Hampshire University—the organization targets African-born twentysomethings from elite schools who have dreams of starting business ventures and socially responsible projects in their native lands. Discouraged by the frequency with which foreign executives tend to swoop in to run new companies, Harambe persuaded large firms such as McKinsey & Company, GlaxoSmithKline, and Standard Chartered Bank to provide grants, pro bono services, and expertise to its members and their start-ups. The result: a 31-country assembly of 225 bright young entrepreneurs, a handful of whom will participate in events surrounding a presidential summit for young African leaders in Washington, D.C., this month.

After a Vatican forum not long ago, Harambe associates met to network and swap stories at Rome’s oldest bar, the Antico Caffè Greco. Among them: Nigeria’s Idris Bello, who oversees tech incubator Wennovation Hub; Zimbabwe’s Rumbi Mushavi, who works with a poultry-farm initiative that provides jobs and sustenance for H.I.V.-positive women in rural Uganda; Kenya’s Rakhee Shah, whose successful fashion label is carried in boutiques in Hong Kong and Spain; Senegal’s David Ly, who leads an app-development firm; South Africa’s Suzana Moreira, who has set up a mobile-commerce service; Botswana’s Rapelang Rabana, a “mobile learning” pioneer; and Kenya’s Sam Imende, who co-founded Enzi, a made-in-Africa footwear brand. Says Bello, “We’re not a think tank—we’re a do tank.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ1vpyekjNg

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Buffett’s annual letter: What you can learn from my real estate investments

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5 Lessons Running a Half-Marathon Taught Me!

Today, I completed the Chevron/Aramco Houston Half-Marathon in a time of 2 hours and 21 minutes. I am deeply appreciative of your support as I transitioned from someone unable to run a mile less than 8 months ago to completing 13.1 miles at a stretch. If I can do it, then anyone can do it!

photo 4But more importantly, I wanted to share five take-aways from my experience that could be applied to life generally!

1. Don’t pick goals where the stakes are low: I did not need to train for, and run a half-marathon, especially given that I did not like running, and had never run a mile. I could have chosen something easier or more within my comfort zone. What I have realized is that if you fail inside your comfort zone, it’s not really failure, it’s just maintaining the status quo. If you never feel uncomfortable, then you’re never trying anything new. You need to step outside your comfort zone to get into your gift zone! Continue reading

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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My Book of Senegalese Stories: Reflections on Gorée, An Island of no return

Visitors, in your grievous smile, I like to read the victory of love”

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 The above quote by the late Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye – founding primary curator of the Slave House of Gorée Island summarizes the mix of my emotions as I stepped foot on this island just a 20 minutes boat ride from Dakar, Senegal.

While I do hope to eventually put up a blogpost about my different experiences (across Senegal- My Book of Senegalese Stories ( as seen here, here, here, here, here and here in pictures), I could not bear to leave Dakar without penning my thoughts about Gorée and its Slave houses, of which it is said;

 The story of Gorée island is the story of how millions of men, women, and children from all over west Africa were sold off into slavery, never to return again to lives familiar.

Continue reading

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My book of Senegalese Stories; ‘Run like a Happy African’ edition

Q24“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

It’s my 2nd day in St. Louis, a tiny fisherman island on the northern shores of Senegal, built and patterned after New Orleans, back when it used to be the capital of Francophone West Africa before Senegal’s independence.

I am here on an innovation working tour to work with local tech hubs and entrepreneurs creating local solutions to local problems. Continue reading

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My Book of Senegalese Stories: The Thanksgiving edition

1Ok. So while my American friends are enjoying their turkeys in freezing weather ( just had to rub that in from tropical weather zone here) I got invited by a Senegalese colleague to join his family for a meal yesterday. I gladly accepted what I assumed would be a pop in- pop out simple meal. It however turned out to be a very interesting meal-making experience which I have tried to capture in pictures below. Continue reading

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Running to Rome!

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“Redefining your limits is what makes great athletes — and great entrepreneurs.”— Unknown

October 2013 found me on my way to Rome for the 2nd Rome Forum organized by the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance  – a network of highly educated young African entrepreneurs, from leading universities in Asia, Europe and North America who in partnership with a growing number of groups including Pfizer, Western Union, and Syngenta are developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem to support the social and business ventures of young African professionals.

It was to be my second visit to the ancient city which holds a special place in my journey on account of the first visit in 2011 having occurred at a pivotal point in Continue reading

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Focus on your expectations, not your limitations!

Warning: This is going to be a long post. Grab some popcorn!

First things first. This blog is now officially two years old. Hurray!

Seems like just yesterday, September 2011  when I left for Oxford to begin to live life on my own terms, and what an experience it has been. It is also a year since I left Oxford to embark on a new phase of life, but I digress.

Today’s post is really about how I l almost missed a major milestone today.

Background
In March 2013, I had visited the physician for my annual physicals, and at that point I was horrified to see that I weighed in at  about 30-40 lbs above my ideal weight. Leaving the Dr’s office, I made a couple of decisions.  Not only was I planning to lose that weight before my 34th birthday nine months away, I was going to do more than that. I was embarking on a life style change of eating healthier and becoming more physically active. Continue reading
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