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Foreign Students Stuck in Dakar Because of Coronavirus

2020-4-24

After Senegal ordered universities to close because of the coronavirus, some students have found themselves in difficult situations.

Ousmane Issaka was forced to sleep on the street outside his shuttered dorm in Dakar, with suitcases at his side, but nowhere to go.

Foreign Students Stuck in Dakar During Coronavirus
Foreign Students Stuck in Dakar During Coronavirus

Issaka is a student from the nearby country of Niger. He had shown no signs of COVID-19, the disease resulting from the coronavirus. But he was worried about accidentally taking the virus back to his home village.

The 24-year-old was not sure when he could return to Cheikh Anta Diop University. So he decided to stay in Senegal following the government’s March 14 order.

Most of the university’s 80,000 students had crowded onto buses or hurried to Dakar’s airport before flights stopped and borders closed.

Issaka said he and other students from Niger spent two nights sleeping on foam bedding on the sidewalk next to the quiet street by his dorm.

“We had to spend a lot of time on the beds, suffering as we waited,” he said. The university then learned of their situation and put them in housing that was left empty when other students left.

The university could not be reached for comment on how many foreign students it is housing during the shutdown. But at least 20 percent of its students come from outside Senegal. In West Africa, freedom of movement enables many to work or study in nearby countries.

Up to now, Senegal has close to 500 confirmed coronavirus cases since the first case was registered on March 2. Niger has reported close to 700 cases since its first case on March 20.

Trying to calm parents

Issaka’s group of around 15 students from Niger have tried to isolate themselves, while keeping life as normal as possible. They keep up with their classes on the internet, play football and send messages to worried family members.

“All they ask about is the disease,” Issaka said in his new shared room, which was filled with belongings. “We try to make them understand that we’re really okay.”

Issaka has accepted the reality that he must wait for the coronavirus pandemic to end. He is far from home and misses student life. The nearby university is completely empty. Clothes lines hanging from dorm windows were usually heavy with clothing. Now they are empty and move around in the wind.

After completing his studies, Issaka plans to return to Niger to set up a fish farm in an area where his family has worked as fishermen for generations.

“All [I] want to hear one day is that we’ve reached the end of this pandemic,” he said.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Reuters News Agency reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dorm - n. a building on a school campus that has rooms where students can live (also called: dormitory)

suitcase - n. a large case that you use to carry your clothing and belongings when you are traveling

isolate - v. to put or keep (someone or something) in a place or situation that is separate from others

pandemic - n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area