7 July 2017

Africa: US Grants Gambian Students Visas for Robotics Contest

Photo: R. Shryock/VOA
Aboubacar Savage, 14, from Gambia looks at a computer at the 2017 Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar, Senegal.

There is a happy ending for a team of Gambian students who planned to compete in a major global robotics contest in Washington later this month.

The five-members were granted visas Thursday to come to the United States after being turned down earlier this week.

They say they are still disappointed that their mentor, education and science ministry director, Mucktarr Darboe, was not granted a visa.

But the Gambian American Association will escort the students around Washington.

Gambia and Afghanistan were the only two countries whose robotics teams were initially denied visas. Neither were given any reason.

The Afghan students had planned to try again this week.

The Gambian and Afghan students were especially puzzled because teams from Iran and Sudan, and a group of Syrian refugees were given visas. All three Muslim-majority countries are on President Donald Trump's travel ban. Afghanistan and Gambia are not.

Lida Azizi, a 17-year old from Herat, calls the visa rejection "a clear insult for the people of Afghanistan."

The group called FIRST Global Challenge holds the yearly robotics competition to build up interest in science, technology, engineering and math across the world.

The group says the focus of the competition is finding solutions to problems in such fields as water, energy, medicine and food production.

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