Thursday, October 14, 2010

Senegal gives scholarships to Haitian students

One of Africa's poorest nations is taking in students from Haiti, offering them scholarships at a Senegal University. Despite the touching act of charity, it has caused some grumbles amongst the public who complain about Senegal residents having trouble receiving scholarship money.

For the students taking Senegal up on the offer it's an opportunity to complete their education. They realize that the country of Senegal is almost as poor as Haiti, but most of Haiti's schools have yet to be rebuilt.

From the Independent On-Line, this Associated Press story depicts the students arrival.
The 163 students are the first batch of arrivals from Haiti in a grand scheme that began when President Abdoulaye Wade saw images of the devastated Caribbean nation following the January quake.

He was moved to help, arguing that Haitians are the sons and daughters of Africa because their ancestors were taken from the continent as slaves. French is the main language of Senegal, while Haitians speak French-derived Creole.

He initially offered free land to the quake victims, and the attempt to help them has become one of the main planks of Wade's larger goal of creating a global African community, which includes a proposal to unite the continent into a single country.

He was criticised at home when he went so far as to say that he would be willing to hand over a region of Senegal if a large number of Haitians were to agree to relocate here. The project has since been scaled back and the students will receive free housing - not land. They will also be offered scholarships in a nation where the campus of Senegal's largest university is frequently paralysed by strikes because of the late payment of scholarships.

“This is a historic day,” said airport security guard Abdou Salam, who leaned against the peeling blue wall of the airport's VIP room in the hours before the chartered jet landed. “But it's a little weird. We're chartering a plane and giving them free scholarships, and yet we know that our own students can sometimes go six months without seeing their payments.”

Last year, students angry at not receiving their scholarships seized municipal buses as they entered the campus of Cheikh Anta Diop University in downtown Dakar. They blocked roads and were beaten back by police. The university's dorms are so overcrowded that rooms made for two often house four or more, forcing students to sleep in spoons on twin-sized beds.

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