The current exodus of youths in The Gambia is due to a combination of factors, repressive government, abject poverty and misrepresentation of the facts from the Diasporans or the so-called “Semesters”. The focus of this article is on the “Semesters” because I felt there is need to have an honest discussion on this subject matter. The majority of Gambian families have a member or two living outside the Gambia and quite often they are responsible for their families back in The Gambia.
According the CIA country report, remittance inflows to The Gambia amount to about 20% of the country’s GDP, hence the importance and influence “Semesters” have on an average Gambian family. Over 85% of houses and private properties are built or owned by “Semesters” and 90% of those that annually undertake private pilgrimage to Mecca are sponsored by “Semesters”. The school fees, uniforms, the everyday food are almost all provided by “Semesters”. The majority of Gambian youths escaping the failed and brutal regime of Yahya Jammeh are sponsored by the “Semesters”, the list is inexhaustible.
However, the majority of “Semesters” who goes to Gambia on vacations do not show or manifest the real life they are living in their various countries of residence especially those in Europe and Americas. On average, “Semesters” plan and budget their vacations between 12 to 24 months and as soon as they landed in The Gambia most of them change attitude, approach and manner. Before leaving for abroad, most of these “Semester” have never ridden, drove or even pedal a bicycle of their own yet when they return they behave as if they have fallen from heaven. Some “Semesters” have no respect for the police, former friends and in some occasions family members, act in an unruly and unacceptable manners. Additionally, they create false impressions to youths in The Gambia, who without knowing are trapped believing that all is plain sailing in Europe and America and in reality it’s far from that. Some of them would rent cars, stay in very expensive accommodations, eat out at expensive restaurants and dress in the best of dresses and jewellery, wore designer perfume etc. These impressions are what everyone wants in reality, however, most of the money used to fund these short and expensive live styles of “Semesters” in The Gambia are borrowed in one way or another and are one of the major factors why the rest of the youths in The Gambia wants to go abroad.
Like the old saying ‘action speaks louder than words’, when “Semesters” return back to Gambia act and stay normal the youths will have a different perspective about living abroad and most of them would think twice before deciding to venture into the unknown. “Semesters” should be truthful to their families, friends and acquaintances because they are seen as role models and term as successful and these are responsibilities vested on their shoulders, which they need to take with seriousness to change the current trend of the youth mass exodus from The Gambia.