Born on August 18, 1958, in Gunjur, Kombo South, he grew up in a family with a prominent religious and political position in the town.
His paternal grandfather is Sheikh Imam Abu Bakr Darboe, known as "Foday Sidi Darboe - May God have mercy on him - who was among the top three personalities who had the final say on religious issues in Gunjur.
He also deputised for Imam Bai Mustapha Touray to deliver the sermon and perform Friday prayers.
A great linguist, an able writer, and preacher, Sheikh Darboe is a graduate of the College of Arabic Language and Islamic Studies at the University of Madinah, and principal of the Solidarity Center for Islamic Studies, the Secretary-General of the General Secretariat of Arab Islamic Education in The Gambia, and lecturer at the Gambia College in Brikama.
Darboe began his educational career at a very early age under the watchful eyes of his father in Gunjur Darboe Kunda before he finally joined Sheikh Hattab Bojang School, may God have mercy on him, in 1964.
He was about seven years old at that time. He learned to read and write and remained attached to Sheikh Hattab, learning from him in the regular school and attending his lessons and lectures, until 1968 when Sheikh Hattab travelled to Saudi Arabia to join the Islamic University of Madinah and from there he proceeded to Omdurman Islamic University in Sudan.
In 1973, Sheikh Hattab graduated from the Islamic University of Omdurman and returned to his home country, The Gambia to continue his educational mission. After Sheikh Hattab Bojang’s return, Sheikh Essa Darboe and the other students continued with him.
Qualification for teaching
In September 1976, Sheikh Essa Darboe was appointed as a teacher at the Ministry of Education under the supervision of Sheikh Hattab, who sent him to the Pakalinding primary school to teach Qur’an and Islamic subjects at the age of 28. Sheikh Hattab Bojang was then the general supervisor of Arab Islamic education at the Ministry of Education.
In 1977, Sheikh Essa Darboe took part in a training course supervised by Sheikh Hattab Bojang, representing the Ministry of Education in The Gambia. The Ministry organised the course in coordination with the World Federation of Arab Schools in Riyadh, Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University and King Saud Universities in Saudi Arabia to train Quran teachers in Gambia’s public schools for three months.
In October 1979, Sheikh Essa Darboe obtained a scholarship from The Islamic University of Madinah. He arrived in Madinah in January 1980, where he joined the secondary institute of the Islamic University.
In 1982, he graduated from the General Secondary Institute of the Islamic University and obtained a General Secondary Certificate.
In 1986, he obtained a BA degree in Arabic Language and Islamic Studies at the Islamic University, and he was the first Gambian student to graduate from this college.
In 1988, he obtained a higher diploma in teaching Arabic to non-native speakers at King Saud University in Riyadh.
His efforts in the development of education in the Gambia
In 1988, Sheikh Essa Darboe returned to his home country of The Gambia after his mentor, Sheikh Hattab Bojang passed away. When he arrived, he found that the academic projects left by Sheikh Hattab were on the brink of extinction, so he undertook, in cooperation with Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Touray and Sheikh Dembo Kurus Touray and Sheikh Ismail Manjang, an initiative aimed at reviving these projects.
Finally, they succeeded in those initiatives, underlying their loyalty to their late sheikh. Once they succeeded in the restoration of many Islamic schools founded by Sheikh Hattab in urban and rural areas, in addition to the Islamic Solidarity Association for West Africa - they agreed that Sheikh Mohamed Al-Amin Touray should assume the presidency of the association, Sheikh Essa Darboe as his deputy, and Sheikh Ismail Manjang as the Principal of the Khaled Bin Al Waleed Islamic School in Kombo Gunjur.
Sheikh Essa Darboe is also a lecturer at the Brikama College, the Solidarity Center for Islamic Studies and an instructor at Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed Islamic School in Kombo Gunjur at times. He also gives classes in exegesis, hadith, jurisprudence and others.
In 1998, Sheikh Essa Darboe, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Touray and others established the Ubay Ibn Kaab Institute for the Memorization of the Holy Qur’an.
The writer was one of the first to enroll in this institute, as he came from the countryside of “Bolong Kono” to Kombo Gunjur to learn. Sheikh Essa - may God protect him - was one of my first Sheikhs in Gunjur.
His efforts in the General Secretariat of Arab Islamic Education of The Gambia:
Late in the twentieth century, specifically in 1996, Sheikh Essa Darboe was appointed Secretary-General of the General Secretariat of Arab-Islamic Education in the Gambia.
Under Sheikh Essa Darboe, the Secretariat has significantly promoted dual education in Islamic schools in The Gambia. The importance of dual education in the present era cannot be overemphasized. His efforts resulted in the standardisation of textbooks in Islamic schools. They improved teachers’ financial situation somewhat, especially teachers under the secretariat’s sponsorship with government subvention. However, teachers still expect a lot of development and progress in various fields. The Secretariat has made remarkable efforts in promoting Islamic education in public schools, and other things that cannot be mentioned.
His efforts in Da’awah
In 2002, Sheikh Essa Darboe obtained a general diploma in Imamate, Da’awah and Public Speaking from the Institute for the Training of Imams and Preachers in Makkah Al-Mukarramah.
His Da’awah efforts are represented by his radio programs, such as the “Islamic Forum” program. Sheikh Sidya Ceesay, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Amin Janneh, may God have mercy on them, and Sheikh Kawsu Fofana took part in the program before going into exile.
Sheikh Essa Darboe has another radio program on the "Janneh Kotoo" radio station in Gunjur and the "Hadith Al Islam" program on the new TV station called QTV. These programs benefit listeners in various countries in West Africa. The Sheikh also participates in public lectures in Gunjur and elsewhere, and he is also one of those who steps in for Imam Muhammad Al-Amin Touray in the Friday sermon and congregational prayers in the Grand Mosque of Gunjur, as well as the sermon of the two feasts, as well as giving lessons.
Overall, Sheikh Essa Foday Darboe is a genius intellectual with supernatural intelligence, far-sightedness, and high culture. The newly appointed GSIC President has a keen interest in modern sciences and international languages. He has learned the English language with self-effort and personal desire until he mastered it, far from formal study. Sheikh Darboe is one of the leading intellectuals in The Gambia. He is one of those who speak more than one of the international languages and has extensive knowledge in project management. The most unmistakable evidence for this is his leadership in running the Solidarity Center for Islamic Studies and the General Secretariat for Islamic Arab Education in the Gambia. It can be said that Sheikh Essa is a pioneer of Islamic education and Arabic writing in the Gambia.
Compiled by: Sulayman Bin Tumani Danjo
Translated and edited by Basidia M. Drammeh