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Gambia’s and Afghanistan’s robotics team can now attend the FIRST Global Challenge

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Gambia's team for the FIRST Global robotics challenge

Gambia’s team for the FIRST Global robotics challenge

The robotics teams from Gambia and Afghanistan have had their US visas approved following worldwide outrage after these high school teams were rejected.

The Gambian team went for its second interview last Thursday, and it was much better than the previous interview in which their visa application was rejected.

“It was very nice and sensible compared with the last one,” revealed Fatoumata Ceesay, a team member. “the questions were related to robotics.”

Speaking of the first interview, Mr. Moctar Darboe, a director within Gambia’s Ministry of Education, and the team’s coach, revealed that, “the kids were asked one or two questions each. It wasn’t detailed enough to give a definitive conclusion.”

“We weren’t even allowed to submit the vital documentation.”

The team from Afghanistan, comprised of six girls, was twice denied a visa, and would probably have been forced to ‘attend’ the robotics competition via Skype, had President Donald Trump not intervened. Just to attend these interviews, the team had to make the 800km journey from Herat to Kabul, and had their equipment held back in customs, forcing them to construct their robot from household items.

Afghanistan's team for the FIRST Global robotics challenge

Afghanistan’s team for the FIRST Global robotics challenge

The teams from Afghanistan and Gambia were the only two, of the 163 national teams, that had been denied a visa to participate in the FIRST Global Challenge, which will be held between July 16 and 18 in Washington D.C.

This year’s robotics challenge is about improving access to clean water, and the participating teams will engage in tasks towards the same goal.

Participating students are between 15 and 18 years old, and include about 40 African nations.