Wednesday, Day 5
We spent the day at Gebisa’s college alma mater, Haramaya University. The college, with an enrollment of 13,000 full-time and 17,000 part-time students, is a verdant oasis, high above the Ethiopian desert, 40 kilometers from the city of Dire Dawa.
On the heels of the announcement of his World Food Prize award, Gebisa has been greeted by well-wishers at every juncture of this African journey.
And Haramaya is no different. But here, he is a celebrated for more than the World Food Prize.
“One of the best we ever had,” says Negussie Seifu, his basketball and volleyball coach when Gebisa was a dominating center on the Haramaya basketball teams of the early 1970s.
Two photos of him are still on display, opposite photos of the university presidents, in the foyer of the administration building.
“That was back when we went to the national championship game in Addis Ababa,” Gebisa says. “That was a very good team. We had three players who actually tried out for the national team.”
The team finished runners up, losing to Addis Ababa University in the championship game after Gebisa broke his wrist in a semifinal win over a powerhouse Ethiopian Greek team.
The school had only 400 undergraduate students during Gebisa’s stay. It has experienced phenomenal growth and is now the second largest university in the country.
And outside most of its classrooms are signs reminding students to turn off their cell phones during class.
But when Gebisa is invited to address a class of agriculture students, eight different students pull out their phones to record the event.
We are staying the night as guests of the university. Fortunately, not in the dorms, which sleep up to 12 students in a room. We are quartered in private rooms with their own showers, bathrooms and televisions.
College was never this good.