Your Excellency and Chancellor of our first ever university, I write to you about a matter very close to my heart, the welfare of young Gambians studying abroad during this challenging COVID-19 era. I recently made a social media post urging your government to send financial assistance to Gambians currently studying abroad and I was informed that your administration had sent forms to Gambians studying in foreign universities, aimed at gathering information to start this process.

Certainly this initiative by your government is highly commendable. But then, again, we have a problem Mr. President. The initial feedback I got about this matter came from a Gambian living in Europe who is actually very happy that your government has started the process of granting support to our young ones abroad but she also emphatically states that she is not interested in the offer for the following reasons, in her own words: “The only mystery in the whole process is the lengthy questions asked on personal details of the said student to filled and send the form back to the Gambian Embassy in Brussels. The suggested Amount for support isn’t stated in the form, hence I wonder why the personal questions.”

Thereafter I received more messages through one of my social media platforms from other Gambians studying abroad who stated their own concern as follows “Many Gambian colleagues studying abroad are not keen to submit their names for the relief support. They asking for too many personal details that does not make sense. In fact the fear is that they will be used as statistics while the money is not even spent on those needy students.”

Your Excellency, why would your government be so intrusive as to making the disclosure of detailed personal information a requirement for your citizens in dire situations to receive money from their very own country’s treasury?

Are you not conversant with the Mandinka prober that ‘Moe buka a fo konko toe yeh taa e buloe koo?’ (No one tells a hungry person to go and wash their hands before they eat a meal)?

Surely, thousands of migrants who left their homeland in pursuit of better lives for their families are languishing in hunger and neglect in Libya, Italy and Spain. This is surely a blight on your government that actually admitted that your victory against the Jammeh administration was powered by Gambians in the diaspora. As if to further muddy up your own record regarding the group you call the 8th region of The Gambia (the diaspora), your government wants to play politics and data collection gimmicks with the welfare and lives of our students studying abroad?

Mr. President, how do you expect migrant-student-citizens of The Gambia to survive while waiting for data collection to be completed in a lockdown situation with no food, no insurance and welfare from their countries of residence. Truly this is not the kind of leadership these students expected from you when they strived and prayed to see you replace Yahya Jammeh.

Your Excellency, in addition to the clearcut case mentioned above, there is yet another category of Gambian students studying abroad who have been completely neglected by your foreign Ministry. Gambian students pursuing degrees in Islamic studies or even other professional disciplines in Arabic speaking countries seem to be rated as second-class citizens who do not deserve any support or attention from your government. Is this fair Mr. President?

There is a whole group of Gambian students in countries like Sudan numbering in the hundreds who have been completely left out in your Higher Education Ministry’s attempt to gather information (and hopefully render support) to Gambians studying abroad. Could this be an oversight or deliberate policy? How can we conclude that this anomaly is a mistake given the fact that your basic education Ministry deliberately left out the Arabic and Islamic students in their televised education programmes aimed at mitigating the loss of class hours occasioned by the current COVID-19 lockdown?

I rest my case, Sir, for the English saying is trite, “a word to the wise is enough .”

Thank you Mr. President and may Allah bless you and yours.

Momodou Sabally

The Gambia’s Pen