News from Maison de la Gare

Desperate Migrant? Or University Graduate?

The impossible becomes possible for the talibés

Tijan Bah was one of many, many desperate talibés who have determined to find their way to Europe to open possibilities for a chance of a better life. They consider the hazardous journey across the ocean by pirogue, or across the desert to Libya and the Mediterranean. Some make it, but vanishingly few of them realize their dream.

Maison de la Gare is determined to give talibé children a path to a secure and productive future. This is the driving force for our apprenticeship and microfinance programs, and for our efforts to support children in formal education.

Sonia writes: In past years, I have written about the inspirational stories of two former talibés whom I met at Maison de la Gare, Tijan and Sulayman. Both, now young men, are originally from The Gambia. They were sent to Senegal as young boys to study the Quran but ended up being exploited as begging talibés.

Tijan and Sulayman had a burning desire for education. Yet neither of them had access to any formal education as forced begging talibés once they were sent away from their families and their native country of The Gambia. After years of exploitation, both eventually made their way to Maison de la Gare where they found refuge in a caring community and took advantage of the literacy classes.

Tijan was the first to leave the streets of Saint Louis to return home to The Gambia to attend school. He had been so desperate for an education and his situation felt so hopeless that he had been preparing to try to cross the desert to migrate to Europe on his own. He had heard that minors who arrived there would be enrolled in school. Maison de la Gare staff and partners helped him believe it could be possible to return to The Gambia to attend school after all, despite many obstacles. And return he did, graduating from high school after four years of dedication and hard work, a proud moment for everyone who knows Tijan. With the support of a scholarship obtained through Maison de la Gare partners, Tijan enrolled in a management certificate program at the University of the Gambia and set out to find a comprehensive scholarship to study at university abroad.

On a return visit to Maison de la Gare, Tijan in turn inspired Sulayman to return to The Gambia and to navigate a high school education in his home country. Against all odds, Sulayman also has graduated from high school, and is currently pursuing post-secondary education in The Gambia. Sulayman described his own journey in a recent report, “A Talibé’s Hard Journey Leads Him to Education”.

Tijan has recently returned to The Gambia from India where he graduated from the Maharaja University of Baroda with a three-year degree in commerce. Tijan reflects on his educational journey and challenges, in his own words:

“As I reflect on my time at university in India, my education in The Gambia, and my time at Maison de la Gare while a talibé in Senegal, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the immense support and opportunities that have come my way.

My university journey in India over the past three years has been an incredible and transformative experience. India's vibrant and diverse culture has been an integral part of my education. Interacting with people from different backgrounds, religions, and traditions has fostered in me a sense of global citizenship and an appreciation for cultural diversity. Immersing myself in India's rich heritage and history has instilled a profound respect for diverse cultures and ways of life.

The zeal to pursue higher education burns brighter than ever within me, and I am determined to make the most of the knowledge and experiences I have gained during my time in India and to continue my education. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have received, and I am determined to use my education to make a positive impact on society and the world at large.”

Clearly, Tijan feels that the opportunities he has received are more significant than the challenges he has faced at every step of the way. And his gratitude and positivity are astonishing when one considers the terrible exploitation, discrimination, and barriers that he has faced at every turn for much of his journey. But Tijan’s motto has always been: “The Impossible is Possible”. Tijan is living proof of his own motto.

He is currently submitting applications to master’s programs and scholarships in the United States in pursuit of his dream of helping to make his community, his country, and the world a better place. Possible, indeed!