The U.S. Embassy in Banjul reversed its decision denying five teens from the West African nation visa to compete in an international robotics competition in Washington, the team’s mentor said.
Muctarr Darboe confirmed Thursday the issuing of visas to the teens, who are elated to be traveling to the U.S. to showcase their talent and put Gambia on the map of global science.
Gambia’s government gave its backing to the team, engaged U.S. authorities to help reverse the decision and paid for the visa reapplication fee for members of the team.
Darboe is an official of the Gambia’s government and works as a director at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.
He mentored the teens, who worked through the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan to build their robot that sorts balls as part of an effort to simulate solutions for separating contaminates from water.
Darboe was, however, denied a visa because the U.S. is not currently granting visas to Gambian government officials over the country history of refusal to accept deported citizens.
Gambia and Afghanistan were the only two countries among more than 160 that did not get visas, the AP reported.
Both countries have visa rejection rates pegged at 75 percent. Although they are both majority-Muslim nations, they are not affected by Trump’s ban on six majority-Muslim countries.
At least 40 African nations are participating in the competition, its organizer, First Global said.
First Global holds the annual robotics competition to encourage learning in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, around the world.