The story of young people in The Gambia is complicated. While significant improvement have been made by the government and development partners in terms of access to education with schools spread out in almost every corner of the country, much remains to be done to have every child covered. Even where there is access, quality leaves much to be desired.
The proliferation of tertiary, technical and vocational schools has not brought about the desired, well-equipped labour force. With the country’s education system structured to produce job seekers, rather than job creators, schools are churning out thousands of young people who cannot get jobs in the currently saturated job market.
In the productive sectors of the economy, such as agriculture and livelihood skills, the incentives are neither attractive enough to entice young people nor are the young people themselves prepared for that venture. No wonder youth are disproportionately overrepresented in the rank of the economically inactive Gambians. As confirmed in the recently launched National Human Development Report, youth unemployment stands at 38 percent. Besides, a good number of those that are employed are also underemployed.
This is the reality The Gambia is faced with. The result is visible: irregular migration is at an unprecedented scale and it’s no longer an option for only the unemployed. Soldiers, teachers and police are all hitting the high seas. Moreover, drug abuse and violent crimes are on the increase.
As a nation, how do we, as the demographic parlance goes, reap the demographic dividend in which the youth bulge the country is faced with would become a blessing rather than a curse? The Nayconf resolution could serve as a guide. Nayconf was a platform that gave the youth the opportunity to state as they felt and they did so without fear or favour.
Informed by the theme of the event and the issues that emerged from the workshops, this year’s resolutions are quite pertinent. They speak volumes in terms of how youth could be engaged in entrepreneurship and livelihood skills; how to maximise the impact of agro business projects on youths and how to transform our sports. Essentially, they want an overhaul of the educational system to make it relevant to the country’s development needs and the freedom to pursue careers that fit their talents without the imposition of any academic arrangement on them. They also want to be incentivised and patronised to be able to have the courage to take the roads less travelled. Other issues hinge on governance, specifically how young people are represented in the National Assembly and local governments and municipalities.
Interesting, they were also courageous enough to look inward and commit themselves to the development of the country. It is therefore hoped that all hands will be put on deck towards the realisation of those aspirations. For young people to take the trouble to come up with these resolutions, after painstaking deliberations, is an indication that they have the country at heart. And, as expected from them, they’re poised to contribute their quota. They don’t make demands because the government has failed them. They made the demands because they’ve trust in the government; that it is capable of responding to their demands.]]>