Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gambia: Suggestion of Ideas With Acute Unemployment Situation

Minister Gomez

The problem of youth unemployment is a burning national issue in today’s Gambia, as has been acknowledged by all who are familiar with the issue.
The problem is not peculiar to this country; in fact, it is a problem in virtually all nations of the world, developed and developing.
Actually, the problem of youth unemployment, and finding possible solutions, is an issue of concern to families generally, whether in the urban or rural areas of the country.

Take middle class families, for example. For them, they have found a way of getting their kids employed in the private sector especially, using their connections. 
They also have the option of sending their kids to study abroad or study at institutions such as the MDI, which most of them make use of.
However, for youths who are not academically oriented, like most of our rural youths, travelling to Europe through the back way is one outlet they have, and which they have been making use of. 
It is our view that the solutions to the problem require, among others, taking initiatives that are innovative.
We note that the government has come up with the GAMJOBS and NEDI projects, which are bold attempts to address the problem.
We also witnessed at attempt this year by the National Youth Council and Youth Department to revive the Holiday Job scheme, whereby senior secondary school students are given the opportunity to work in companies and state institutions, during the period of the annual summer holidays.
The objective of the exercise being to give the participants the chance to experience first-hand the office environment, so that they are able to relate, and to determine the relevance or otherwise of what they learn at school to the real world of work. 
This is a good experience for those who are lucky to participate in such a scheme, since they become familiar with the working environment office set up, and so on. It also prepares them psychologically for working, as part of their socialization.
However, despite the positive aspects, as outlined, things did not go as envisaged, since we learned from the organizers that the offices or companies requested to be part of the scheme were not all responsive or cooperative.
This was most unfortunate, considering the great benefits to the participants. 
What we can say here is that, apart from engaging in holiday jobs in the formal sector, there are a lot of other useful activities young people could participate in during summer.
For example, the students could be mobilized to engage in tree planting, as part of the government’s campaign to have a million trees planted during the rainy season. They could be allocated specified areas in which to plant specific numbers and species of trees, and receive token amounts for their work.
In fact, we believe that tree planting and keeping the environment clean are activities, which could be used to keep our youths busy and usefully engaged, during the summer holidays.
Take the cleaning of the environment, for instance. We have always wondered why the environmental youth corps scheme was not designed so that our youths could have engaged in clearing litter from our streets, and removing refuse and earth from the drains which block them and contribute to flooding, whenever it rains heavily. 
Indeed, our youths could have been mobilized in environmental brigades and given an incentive in the form of a reasonable monthly income to participate in such as exercise regularly. We notice that a similar idea is being used, under the GAMJOBS project, to get youths engage in collecting household or domestic refuse for a fee. 
This should be given all the support it deserves, and the municipalities should be involved in getting the compound owners to sign up to the scheme, since it has become evident that the municipal cleansing services are clearly not able to cope with the present situation. 
The idea is that jobless youths in the community could be organized into groups which are given the tools to clear the garbage, and receive payment for their efforts.
We also propose that young people, particularly rural youths, be organised so as to be seriously engaged in farm work, from clearing, ploughing, sowing, weeding to harvesting or bringing in the crop. 
Urban youths could also be mobilized to join in, particularly at the stage of the weeding and harvesting of the crop.
What about taking the children and youths on a trek of parts of the country they are not familiar with? 
For instance, urban children and youths could go on a visit of towns and villages in the regions or provinces, whilst their rural counterparts come to visit the capital city of Banjul and Greater Banjul area, as well as Brikama and environs.
This will help Gambian children and youths to know more about other parts of their country.
We also suggest that youth camps be held, during the summer, where young people learn civics, and receive lessons in such skills as swimming (at the swimming pool of the Independence Stadium, for example), music, drama, painting etc.
The National Youth Council and others, such as youth organizations, can get corporate sponsors for some of these activities, or even ask participants to pay for their participation.
For example, treks could be organized and the participants asked to pay in joining the bus trip to see other parts of the Gambia.
These areas could be, for our rural compatriots, places such as Arch 22 in Banjul, the Kanifing Municipality with the tourism development area, fine roads, buildings, and traffic lights, Denton Bridge, Banjul ferry crossing and Banjul port, among other places.
For our urban compatriots, we could organize a trip to the Stone Circles, Baboon Island and the Chimps project in the Central River Region, Kanilai zoo, the Kerewan Bridge, Amdalai-Karang border post, the trans-Gambia ferry crossing, the rice fields in Sapu, and similar places of interest in rural Gambia.
We have attempted, in this commentary, to share ideas that we feel could be useful, if applied, and we hope that our suggestions will be seen and received in that light.
Indeed, the joblessness of our children is a matter that worries all of us, and all of society is affected; thus the need to share ideas that work.

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