By Ismaila Saidybah
Youth unemployment has been a rather persistent menace for many developing countries, the Gambia being no exception. With a youthful population of over sixty percent, job creation for these youths should be a top priority on the government’s agenda since no country can realize its full potential without empowering the drivers and backbones of such countries – the youths. As a result, the government needs to see it as a sacred obligation to explore avenues that would ensure gainful employment for the youthful population.
For this country to realize its potential, youth empowerment is not only required but demanded. Security and empowerment of youths is a requisite for any meaningful development of a country. It is therefore, prudent and incumbent on the government to ensure that the persistent menace of unemployment among the youths is mitigated if only to inspire hope and confidence in an already despondent population.
Apparently, not everybody is called to ensure self-growth and actualization through western education – the more reason I hold fast to the belief that stupidity is a non-existing abstract concept. A person devoid of academic brilliance is not stupid and they must not be seen to be stupid. Every human being has a calling in life, a purpose to serve in order to contribute meaningfully to the advancement of humanity and development of society. Our unemployed youths should be given the opportunity to dig into themselves and bring out their hidden potential.
At the heart of this proposition is the massive investment in vocational training that the government ought to have done many years ago. This will afford many youths the opportunity to engage in something that’ll add value to their lives and make them responsible citizens who have a significant role to play in the development and transformation of the country.
Education, though indispensable for the development of any nation or individual, is not the only benchmark that can be used to measure success. After all, not everybody has an easy grasp of education either due to one’s apparent deficit in academic intelligence or its menacing financial implication. As a result, an alternative avenue should be explored to cater for people who do not get the opportunity to gain western education – a reality that is no fault of theirs.
Youth unemployment has a lot of negative impacts on society. Most of the problems associated with the youths, ranging from drug abuse, petty thievery, armed robbery and similar crimes have the yokes of unemployment as a major factor. And most of the youths involved in these crimes are school dropouts or those who have never been to school at all. In my opinion, the government has an obligation to protect and secure the future of these youths through alternative approaches that will transform them into responsible and resourceful individuals instead of liabilities in society.
This alternative approach, in my judgement, should be a massive investment in vocational training that would afford the youths the opportunity to learn skills and equally ensure the verity of self-actualization just like those gifted with academic brilliance.
The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI), being the only state-owned vocational training institution, should take a new paradigm in diversifying the dispensation of vocational training in the Gambia. In that the institution should have an annex in all the regions of the country so that a person from Basse would not need to travel a distance of 263 km to get vocational training. But, to achieve this, the intervention of the government is required.
The government should direct a lot of resources at GTTI. This is an institution that trains our young people on real life skills and as a result, it needs to be well-equipped for effective and efficient service delivery. Training the young people on skills has a lot of benefits for both the youths and the country.
For instance, if the young people are given the opportunity to learn skills, it can enable them to employ themselves and make significant contribution to the development of the nation. Also, it will drastically reduce the crime rate among the youth folks since a person with gainful employment will not want to get involved in drug abuse, petty thievery and other crimes. If this is achieved, any lingering notion of aimlessness about the youths will be quickly dissipated.
Now, none of this will be possible without the willingness of the youths. We have to accept the fact that not everyone can wear a suit and tie and sit in an office. Nation building is a collective responsibility and everybody has a role to play and I’m not sure that one role is more important than the other. The role of a carpenter is as indispensable as the role of a minister when it comes to national development. This is enough motivation for more investment to be done on the youths.
Until the government invests in vocational training as an alternative avenue to combat youth unemployment, the youths of this country will continue to wallow in poverty, frustration and joblessness. The government ought to cater for its youthful population in order to reduce inefficiency of youths and petty crimes. This should be a priority on the government’s agenda.
Ismaila Saidybah is an award-winning writer and novelist. He was the winner of the 2020 covid-19 short story writing competition organized by the National Center for Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Writers Association of the Gambia. He is also the Founder and Country Coordinator of Writers Space Africa – Gambia Chapter.