The Life of A Female Math Major: The Inspiring Story of Fatou Kineh Ndow, UTG Valedictorian and Ohio University Postgraduate

[By Mamudou Jallow]

The wise will tell you that no one is destined to fail in life just because they were born without a silver spoon in their mouth. Bridging Gaps Advisory is pleased to launch its maiden “Profile of the Month” with the inspiring story of Fatou Kineh Ndow, the 2016 UTG valedictorian who proceeded to the Ohio University in the United States for her Masters in Mathematics.

Today the girl who was born in the heart of Serrekunda as the first child of handicap parents is a Math Instructor at the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College in the State of Ohio. However, the road to the blackboard has been a long one for this young lady whose wheelchair bound mom sold telephone credit and sweets at Westfield to put her through school.

Like most of us, Fatou Kineh started her education in the informal Quranic School system locally known as “Daara” where she learnt the Quran and the basics of the Islamic faith.  She started her formal education at St. Charles Lwanga in FajiKunda before proceeding to St Therese’s Lower and Upper Basic Schools and then to the Gambia Methodist Academy. Graduating from high school in 2011 as a pure Science student, she got admission to study Physics at the University of the Gambia (UTG) but later switched to Mathematics; a subject that is very close to her heart.

While in her second year at the UTG, Fatou was selected from a number of applicants to spend a semester at the St. Mary’s College in Maryland in the United States as an exchange student.  She came back to the UTG to complete her degree in Math, graduating with summa cum laude, the highest distinction in university education.

Looking back at her humble beginning and career successes, Fatou is grateful to Allah for her strength and courage to persevere despite all the odds. She is also particularly grateful to her mom for supporting and encouraging her all through her journey. Fatou is especially grateful that her mom allowed her to continue her education when, in her own words, “She had the option of agreeing to marry me young or do other things that would have hindered my education.”

Asked how she got to love Math when a majority of Gambian students claim that the subject is too hard,  Fatou said she was lucky to have had teachers who made the subject very interesting and fascinating to study. Adamant that Mathematics is not difficult, she says the key to success in the subject is good teachers, devoting a lot of time studying and thinking critically.

Asked about her TV viewing and social media usage during her school days, Fatou said she wasn’t active on social media and she watched TV sparingly. So when girls her age were hooked to soap operas such as “Anna”, “Pretta” and “Sireh” that ran on Gambian Television few years ago, Fatou Kineh was instead immersed in solving mathematical problems such as bearings and vectors in a plane, modular arithmetic, logical reasoning and number bases in preparation for her twelfth grade exams.

At the UTG she was known to put more emphasis on her books than in her looks. Students there remember her for the simple long black abayas that she wore and her persistent hard work that pushed her to the top of her class and eventually brought the scholarship that made it possible for her to proceed to the United States for her Masters.

Fatou Kineh challenges all students, especially young girls to embrace Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. She is confident that if girls were to focus on their education, they will achieve the same results as their male counterparts. Her advice to the youth, especially to the girls, is to never give up. She says with hard work, determination and perseverance anything is possible.

Fatou Kineh’s story proves that determination will get you through all the hurdles life may put in front of you. We are calling on all young girls in the Gambia and abroad to be inspired by this personality.

The Bridging Gaps Advisory team congratulates Fatou Kineh Ndow for her successes against all odds. Go Fatou! Go!

Check our blog on Wednesday October 3rd for the full interview.