IOU founder Bilal Philips announces 1000 scholarships for Gambia

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By Omar Bah

The founder of International Open University, Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, has confirmed to The Standard that he handed 1000 scholarships to President Adama Barrow for students who want to pursue university education.

“I met with the president couple of weeks back and gave him a cheque for 1000 scholarships to be given to the underprivileged youth of the Gambia through the Office of the President. I challenge them to properly vet students to ensure that it goes to the people who it is intended for so that it doesn’t go to friends and relatives of the people in the government,” he said.

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Dr Philips said his university as part of efforts to bring university access to doorsteps of every Gambian youth has started expanding to the provinces.

Dr Philips said the project was launched with the support of the president and the ministry of higher education.

He said they have already opened a class in Soma with the intention of opening branches in all the regions. “So, this is making real changes in the running of the university and the country’s education. The UN says the difference between the underdeveloped countries and the developed countries is education, so that’s where it begins and ends. We have embraced that and sought to implement it within the Gambia,” he stated. 

Dr Philips further revealed that in 2017, the university launched a program of 1,000,000 scholarships for African youths and this is not limited only to Muslims.

“The idea is to provide the opportunities of higher studies to the 94% of graduates from high school who don’t find any places in the universities. This is common across Africa – only 6% of high school graduates find places in university in Africa while the global average is 26%,” he added.

He said some of these young people will normally end up in Al Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria or ISIL in Mali devastating societies.

“They are ignorant because no avenue was open for them to enter into proper studies to know what proper Islam is. So, we have dedicated funds from the university towards setting up centres which provide access to higher learning to those in the rural areas who can’t afford university fees,” he said.

He said one third of IOU students are studying under scholarship while only two third of students pay fees.

“I don’t think you can find another university that can say that one third of its students are under scholarship. You are talking about 3000 students, so not only that we have provided the necessary infrastructure for the students to be able to study. We give them scholarship and provide them with computers and Internet access,” he said.