Baboucarr Saho with his certificate and award
A billboard by an advertising agency with the inscription: “Future leaders of Africa study in UK,” installed right in the heart of Kanifing Municipality, The Gambia, shaped Baboucarr Saho`s perception about acquiring education in The Gambia.
Baboucarr was born in Barra, a town located on the North Bank of River Gambia. He is a smart young man with a dream to inspire and lead change in his community and beyond. “I was smart in school,” with a smile on his face he told us.
In 2016, a year after completing his high school education, Baboucarr would embark on an irregular route with the hope of reaching Europe through Libya. According to Baboucarr, two things motivated him to embark on the perilous, risky journey: a billboard that painted a dark and gloomy picture for people opting to continue their education in The Gambia and his friends who reached Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
“I interpreted that billboard to mean that we cannot become successful with our education system. And second, at the time, even though some could not make it, others successfully entered Europe using the journey. Mentally, pressure built on me - societal pressure.”
The journey was an experience Baboucarr will never forget. While taking a pause in talking and nodding his head in disappointment, with a gloomy and calm voice, he said: “It was horrible.”
Baboucarr like many migrants was exposed to discrimination and all kinds of inhumane treatment on the journey. Baboucarr started facing difficulties even before reaching Libya. His ordeal began in the desert.
“The journey is a death trap,” he said. “In the desert, I escaped death twice. I was involved in a life-threatening accident. My family thought I would not make it. Sitting in front of you and narrating this story is a miracle. Thank God.”
His experience in Libya was nothing to write home about too. According to Baboucarr, he faced discrimination and abuse in Libya. His rights were violated.
“I was detained three times. I have never been to prison in The Gambia. I am a disciplined young man. But in Libya I was detained. Libya was the first time I experienced prison. It was horrible.”
His voluntary return to The Gambia was facilitated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The boat he was in together with other migrants was intercepted by the Libya`s coastguard when they attempted to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. They were later taken to a detention centre. Without a second thought, Baboucarr decided to return home to pursue his dreams.
Upon return, Baboucarr frequented the beach to make ends meet. He would then get a part time job at one of the restaurants through a friend. Baboucarr was advised by his friend to learn a skill and his dream of getting a well-paid job will come true. This informed his decision to join The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute (GTHI).
After gaining admission into the institute to study, Baboucarr faced another challenge. He could not pay for his school fee. To keep studying, he had wanted to work more hours at the restaurant to save money to cover his tuition fees. Things would take a good turn for him when International Trade Centre came in to provide a timely support.
The International Trade Centre (ITC), through its EU-funded Youth Empowerment Project, Job Skills and Finance Programme and UN Peacebuilding Fund project, provided a scholarship package to 346 young people in hospitality and professional bakery across the country at The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute. Baboucarr Saho was one of them. Baboucarr studied food and beverage management.
“I wanted to work extra hours at the restaurant to save more money to pay for my school feels. However, International Trade Centre (ITC) came to my aid through a scholarship package. I would like to extend gratitude to ITC for supporting my training programme. It would have been difficult to graduate without them.”
Baboucarr has now completed his foundation courses and plans to further his studies. At a graduation ceremony held at the institute, Baboucarr was awarded as the best student in his class. Currently, Baboucarr is on an internship at a local restaurant where he is learning more skills. His dream is to start his business and employ other young people.
“I want to continue studying – to build my career. I want to start a restaurant to earn a decent income and provide for myself, family, and others.”
The International Trade Centre has supported over 1500 young Gambians across the country with hospitality and bakery skills. Tourism is one of The Gambia`s key economic sectors. The sector is the highest foreign exchange earner and one of the major employers of Gambians, especially women and young people.
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