The following statement is by me, Simon Kapenda, in my response to the news article by Ronelle Rademeyer published in Die Republikein newspaper of today, Monday, May 31, 2010.
In 1984, I was still in my final year of my primary school education at Omunkete Primary School in Namibia’s northern part, near Oshikuku (for those who don’t know it, please Google earth it), and my childhood friend, Peter “Nujoma” Nicodemus (Sakeus knows him), went to continue his secondary education at Nujoma Secondary School (no relation to his namesake). That time Namibia was under the severe arm of the South African apartheid system, black people had to take care of themselves, no state assistance of any kind. My older sister Jenny, whom I adore, used to work as a Cashier for Aupa Indongo’s Continental No.1, then the largest supermarket store in the Oshakati area.
She worked very hard to provide for us with whatever we needed and more. Besides clothing us, she provided us with all kinds of cool things, such as radio and tape recorders/players, walkman, electric irons, etc. Stuff that most black people didn’t have access to then, unless if from a well to do family.
When Peter went to Nujoma Secondary School, to live in the hostel, he needed a lot of help with soaps, generally just basic toiletries and stuff. His family didn’t have that much then. And that’s when I stepped in. I started giving Peter my own toiletries, my radio/tape player and an electric iron. Most of the time, I sneaked giving him these things as my family also needed them. I also used to give him some of my clothes, because living in a hostel requires having more than just one shirt and a pair of one pants.
That’s how it all started. When I went to a secondary school at Iipumbu Secondary School in Oshakati, I found myself sharing most of my stuff with a lot of my schoolmates. By then, I was already working in downtown as a gardener for certain three different apartheid filled families, after school and on weekends, so even though I was only earning R1.50 a day for hard labor all day, and also, I sold apples, bananas and Cool Aid (yes, I had my booth at a young age, entrepreneurial, to earn and get my own money to pay for my school tuition and fees), I was able to save up and buy more supplies that I shared with my friends, such as Andreas Tweendeni, and others.
In Windhoek, where I continued my secondary school, two of my friends, Simon and Martin, followed me years later, and I too helped them register and attend at the same, the then prestigious English private college preparatory high school, and that’s where I met Peter Gwarada.
After that, it was history. My one ex-girlfriend, Ndina, who studied high school in, then Czechoslovakia, and when she came back to Namibia with her family, as most Namibian refugees did in 1989 and 1990, I helped her signed up and get admitted to study at The Academy (today Polytechnic of Namibia). The Academy was still then some sort of a closed admission college, perhaps for the elites in some sort. And with her high school diplomas in a foreign language other than English, German, or Afrikaans, I managed to instantly register her and she got admitted. She has since completed her degree in Nature Conservation and had furthered her Masters degree in South Africa.
That’s how it all started to this day. When I came to America to continue with my education, I found more and more not only Namibian students trying to apply to American colleges, but other students in other countries. The Internet was not yet even known by the general public then. The source of information was the Public Libraries, where I would go in my free time and do some researches on different colleges, make copies of admission contact information and applications, and mail them to the students who requested me to help them find good colleges and universities in America.
Not one time have I charged for my time or for stamps and envelopes for doing that. By 1997, it was getting too much; I had to split my time with my work and helping students. And the Internet has become a mainstream, in the USA, but not yet in some developing countries.
I have always believed that education is the key for anyone to better him/herself. And I couldn’t live with myself not knowing that I was not helping someone. I had my small business then and at the same time, it was also the dawn of the era for domain name gold rush, people buying and selling domain names like hot cake. And what a great way for someone, if lucky enough to grab up some good domain names and resell them for an exorbitant profit? If I didn’t do it, then someone else would do it, as that was the case then.
In order to efficiently help out, and my name was becoming known for helping students, I had to split myself between my work and helping students out. And because of the difference in time zone in different parts of the world, I had to stay up late most of the nights, as I had people calling me at my home, anytime of the night, just needing help to fill out college applications or have them read their college admission essays to me over the phone so I can help critic them.
Because the demands were getting high, and how stupid I was, I was just a kid then, wasn’t experienced on how to do a lot of stuff such as run a nonprofit organization. There are laws on how set up and operate a nonprofit. And I was still a baby, a pure infant, in doing so. That’s why, I simply focused on providing the service that was critically needed as I saw it and still see it today.
In 1997, I decided to set up an organization to help serve the identified needs. World Education Access Inc. was born, and incorporated in 1998 with the State of New York. I got a large office space in Dayton, Ohio and hired 6 full-time staff and some part-timers of dedicated people, real good people, whose objectives were to serve and provide the much needed service. Students wrote, emailed, and called the office, and asked questions and get assistance in applying to any college as well as with their homework. We provided information, gotten in touch with many colleges and universities in the world such as Columbia University and as far as many universities in Europe and Asia. They would constantly ship to us in bulk boxes of their quarterly admission application forms and brochures in great number of packages and we shipped them to the students who requested them. Most times, we filled out their admission application on behalf of the students who couldn’t read or write proper English.
The costs were adding up to run a nonprofit, and the staff had to be paid. I, for myself, was never on payroll and have never been reimbursed for any fees or costs. I spent a lot of time, doing live concert productions, and buying and selling domain names, and I generated a lot of money in doing so to help keep the organization going. However, I had to decide that providing a free service is good for those receiving it, but for those providing it have to be paid. Office rent, electricity, a massive monthly phone bill for making long distance and international calls, plus Internet access fees, mailing supplies, etc., were expensive.
To help offset some of the costs, we decided to charge a membership fee for certain students, those who were disabled or from low income families didn’t have to pay the membership fee. This fee helped to offset some of the operating costs.
We had students attending different colleges and universities as far as in India, Russia, MIT, Harvard, Columbia University, Oxford University, Europe, almost everywhere. Not only students from developing countries, but from right here in the USA. We were paying thousands of dollars in tuition and fees to different colleges and schools around the world.
However, 40 of some of those member students, most of them never paid membership fees, their tuition were not paid for their duration of study. Some fees were only paid for such as a year and not the full degree term as initially promised. Some of these students were Benedict Mwakyanjala and his friend Esther, from Tanzania.
Benedict and Esther were students at the University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio. Benedict called me up one day out of the blue in 1998, crying because his tuition and fees were not paid and the University was informing him to expel him and his friend Esther. Also, his student visa was expiring and the university was not going to renew it unless his fees were paid.
I dropped everything that I was doing that morning and got in my car and drove from Dayton, Ohio to Steubenville, Ohio; that’s nearly a 3+ hours of driving. I arrived on the campus and went to meet up with Benedict. We then went to the Bursar’s office, and sat down with his advisor. I listened to his advisor telling me about Benedict’s and Esther’s situation, which their accounts were over 3 semesters past overdue, and that if they didn’t pay anything on it; they were going to be expelled.
I negotiated with the Bursar’s office and paid down $2,500 for Benedict and $1,500 for Esther, and made monthly installment payment for their remaining amounts. They were able to stay and continue with their study. That was during the spring semester when they approached me. In the summer, Benedict took the summer off and came to Dayton to work at our offices. He didn’t have a place to stay, so I put him in an Extended Stay near Wright State University, where I was paying for his stay $380 per week. He came to work at the office, where I paid him around $11 an hour. I bought him weekly food, and he came and ate dinner occasionally with my family. I bought him clothes as well as gave him my old shirts, pair of dress pants, etc. I treated him like my own brother. At the office, I was told that when his supervisor was not looking, Benedict would spend hours surfing porno instead of working.
By the end of summer, at that time, I had also paid $2,500 to The Recording Workshop, Chillicothe, Ohio, for the recently deceased Namibia’s legendary singer and songwriter, Jackson Kaujeua, to study music production and audio engineering there. However, he was in Europe for nearly 2 year and was not able to attend his program. Jackson has postponed his study at The Recording Workshop several times prior but the school was still holding his place and the money that I had paid in full for his tuition. By that time Jackson emailed me that he was no longer able to attend his program and that I should get a refund.
One morning in August, Benedict and I drove to The Recording Workshop, and picked up a check for the refund, and I gave that check to him for his tuition and fees for the fall semester at his college. A few weeks after that, The Ohio Attorney General filed a lawsuit against me and our organization, claiming that 40 students have filed complaints against World Education Access Inc and myself, as the founder. The Attorney General sent out a press release and The New York Times published the story about the lawsuit.
The gentleman who led the campaign against me and my organization who later told me that he was the one who reported us to the Ohio Attorney General is Chip White, and if you Google his name or check out his MySpace.com profile, you may discover some real stuff that may be considered awful to some, with his business activities which includes operating porno web sites, and also some questionable medical clinic schemes, and lying about his degree at Otterbein University. And, a few weeks later, we were called for a deposition with the lawyers from the office of the Ohio Attorney General.
As part of our evidential documentations, my lawyers and I had compiled all our verifiable documents, receipts of money paid to different colleges around the world, and the list of all the students whom we have helped or were helping with all kinds of educational assistance.
The outcome of the deposition and court; I never went to court, and was never charged for any wrong doing. The outcome was simply asked to revise our services, but we were never asked or ordered by the Ohio Attorney General or the Court to shut down our operations. I was however ordered to pay restitution to those students, and the case was closed. Benedict and Esther were some of those students who filed the lawsuit against me with the Ohio Attorney General’s Betty Montgomery. And we all know what has happened a few years later with Mrs. Betty’s involvement in the then Ohio Governor Taft’s scandal activities.
Regarding the Irish Prime Minister’s domain name issue. It was the dawn of buying and selling domain names. Many Internet related laws were not yet enacted. If you didn’t register any name to profit from it, then you were simply like someone standing at the bus stop going somewhere, and the bus came but either he or she fell asleep or simply was an idiot and didn’t get on the bus.
Lots of famous names were being registered, and I was one of those who had gotten on the bus, when the bus came, and I made good money, thousands of dollars in selling domain names. Yes, they called those people Cybersquarters. It was business, and was never a felony or crime to register and try to profit from any domain name back then. And I had registered a lot of names, at one time, I had over 800 domain names, and I sold lots of them, including FifthThirdbank.com, etc., which I sold to Fifth Third Bank for $5,000, and most of that money went to World Education Access. I was making an average of $5,000 per domain name.
BernieAhern.com was one of the domain names that I had registered. And it didn’t make sense simply to register a bunch of domain names, and simply let them stand there idle and not making money from them. They had and still have many domain name parking services, where if you own a domain name, you can forward to park it at that web site and make a few dollars in advertisement, instead of simply having a domain name and not do anything with it until it’s sold if it ever will.
The domain parking service I had used had sometimes, not at my knowledge displayed porno images on the page, but when I found out that BertieAhern.com was forwarded to such a Web site, I immediately removed it and parked it elsewhere.
Most times, when someone wants to claim the domain name back for his personal or business ownership use, they would simply email you and you can work it out to transfer ownership of the domain name to him or her or the business. Bernie Ahern didn’t contact me, instead, he filed a civil lawsuit to get his name back, and I didn’t even fight with him, but simply worked it out with his office and transferred it to his ownership.
In short, regarding World Education Access, the idea was good and had a very good intention. But it was ill-implemented. I was stupid, and still was learning, but my heart was in a good place. That’s why after the deposition, the Attorney General simply advised me to revise how we operated, pay restitution, but never ordered us to shut down.
Personally, I have never been arrested, accused, charged or whatsoever for any criminal or felony activities in any country I have lived; Germany, the UK, Denmark, Namibia, or the US. I always had a job as a sound engineer, working for a living to care for myself and my family.
That was over 10 years ago. I have since started and founded and operated different online and offline companies, and I have learned on what and not to do. My 18+ years of extensive experience as an entrepreneur and a sound engineer, coupled with my extensive in-class lectured at The Recording Workshop and The Ohio State University have equipped me to do what I am doing today. And, as of today, I have never stopped helping students, I am still helping them in any way I can.
There are currently five Namibian students, Febe, Sackey, Rose, Simon, and Max, that I am currently helping to apply to a college, Santa Monica College, in Santa Monica, California and Berkeley College of Music in Boston, MA, and these are due to start their education at these institutions in the fall of 2010. For as much time as I put in helping with their admission applications, TOEFL tests, etc., neither one of them have ever been asked to pay me for anything.
Some of the students that I or World Education Access have helped in the past, some of them went on to become professionals in their careers, and even though I have never received a thank you back from them, I am certain they are now earning good wages for themselves, their families and communities.
I will never cease helping students anywhere, I have helped students from as far as Vietnam, who have come to America, lived in my house, helped them applied to colleges, drove them back and picked them up from their classes, without ever charging them for food, rent, etc. In fact most times I paid for their monthly rents. This is my community service calling, it’s my passion, it’s part of my life. And for every dollar I earn in my life, 20 cents of that goes to do just that.
We all have done some shameful things in our lives, only because we don’t walk around with our wrong doings hanging on our necks for all of us to see. And as soon as you start doing something good anywhere, then you have people like Ronelle Rademeyer of Die Republikein, who try to dig, and most times, without ever asking for any explanation or the facts, craft up old and irrelevant stories, just so they can a newspaper. What’s the motive? Trying to destroy what’s beautifully being done? Yes, I was partly responsible for conceiving the idea to develop the system, which now has become part of our development in Grootfontein.
But what does that have to do with me and my past work at World Education Access or the domain name BertieAhern.com? Is that really relevant on what to focus? Will it help to destroy what’s being built, what’s being designed, what’s being developed to help develop the country, Namibia, to help create hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs for every Namibian who wants one? A system that will help fast track Namibia’s Vision 2030, an ecosystem that will help transform Grootfontein into a thriving city with an annual operating budget of more than US$500 million within the next 3-5 years.
What’s so wrong about that, for someone to dream and take an action to make that dream a reality, put together the best team ever, with God’s endowed pool of investors, more than $1 billion for the development of our ecosystem with the potential of more than $5 billion for anchor partner projects, which all of these will tremendously benefit, not only the people of Grootfontein and Namibia, but the entire Southern African region. Why is it so important to focus on destroying something so beautiful than helping to rally the community in supporting it, because this is not a one-man operation, it doesn’t just benefit Simon Kapenda’s family, but everyone who’s involved and around?
Yes, I am fortunate enough to have come to the America on my own, and God has helped me to meet some of the most incredible people in our group, and together, we are developing our ecosystem that will help change and equally transform Namibia for all the Namibian people, forever.
Now that you have my entire life in your hand, Ronelle Rademeyer, and everyone else who cares to dig and report, sometimes without asking for comments or clarification, can we find some civility and opportunity to rally and support this ecosystem? We all have done wrong in our lives, and if one start digging in your background, we may find some things that may not be considered favorable to some. The only difference is that; “Any man can make a mistake; only a fool keeps making the same one.”