Ezana Haddis of The University of Manchester was born and raised in one of the inner-city slums of Addis Ababa. He suffered epilepsy for 16 years from the age of 11 to 27. His parents didn’t go to University. His father was in the Navy and his mother was a self-employed tailor. It became his lifelong dream to change society for the better and transform the slums.
With his parent’s encouragement he worked his way through school then Addis Ababa University. He then completed a Masters in Urban Management and Development from Erasmus University Rotterdam. Then he joined Ethiopian Civil Service University as a lecturer. Ezana Haddis is a rising star. He tells me “I decided to do critical research on the inner-city redevelopment of Addis Ababa that have displaced more than 23,000 households to peripheral locations from the city centre.”
Ezana found out about The University of Manchester and The Global Urban Research Centre (now under the Manchester Urban Institute), which specialised on Global South studies with a critical approach towards conventional urban planning and promoting pro-poor participatory interventions. His best friend since undergrad (Eyob Balcha Gebremariam) started his PhD one-year ahead of him and said good things about the city and the university.
Ezana applied tfor a PhD in Planning and Environmental Management at The University of Manchester and was accepted. “I was a poor civil servant earning less than £100 a month in 2014. I could not afford to pay the tuition fee and living expenses.” So he applied and secured the prestigious President’s Doctoral Scholar Award and with the generous funding of the University, he finished his PhD entitled Inner-city Redevelopment in an Aspiring Developmental State: The Case of Addis Ababa Ethiopia
This makes me proud and thankful to the President of University of Manchester Dame Nancy Rothwell.
Ezana’s mother, Roman Gebremariam Gebreyesus, sacrificed her health by sewing dresses for more than thirty years to support her children’s schooling. When she applied for a visa to come to England to see her proud son graduate in the great Whitworth Hall this summer she was refused.
I am Chancellor of University of Manchester. My role is unpaid and purely ceremonial. I know that a PhD in (urban) planning & Environmental Management is needed in Ethiopia. Ezana’s intention is to boycott his graduation ceremony and protest against the UK Immigration system which statistics show “UK visa refusals are issued at twice the rate for African visitors than for those from any other part of the world.” . His protest is valid. But I am writing this blog in the hope that he will attend the ceremony. I have spoken to him. “your family can hold a party in Addis and watch tyou take your doctorate via the Live feed which is provided by The University of Manchester.” There are many students whose loved ones won’t be able to attend for a variety of unjust reasons.
The memory of your graduation will stay with you forever. Make it a good one. You deserve it. Even if your mother is banned from the country because of the colour of her skin you must stand tall and take your degree in her name, in your name and all the generations that came before you and those that will come after you.
Ezana is on twitter @KinEz_II