By Omar Bah
Over one hundred skills training institutions in the country have called on the government to immediately facilitate reopening of their schools to prevent them from dying a natural death.
“Training institutions are dying and there has not been any support from the government,” the National Association of Vocational & Skills Training Institutes (NAVSTI) said in statement shared with The Standard.
The association, which is an umbrella body of all TVETs (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) in The Gambia, also expressed grave concern on the impact of the state of emergency on training institutions.
“It is a well-known fact that training institutes rely solely on school fees, with no more fees from students, the question remains, how can we continue paying salaries when no money is being generated? We are obliged to pay our staff and we have the desire to but with the current situation and its unpredictability, we might struggle to pay salaries and rent if the status quo continues,” the statement said.
All TVET institutions were ordered to close for business since the declaration of the first state of emergency on 17 March 2020.
The association said even though the pandemic affects all strata of the economy, the impact is more severe on skills training institutions.
“Whiles other businesses are allowed to open partially, there has been a total and complete lockdown of all training institutions for the past 5 months. The impact of these closures has a serious negative effect especially in the TVET and skills sector, there is evidence that the major challenge for institutions has been to remain operational and to continue to provide their services to the community, despite having suspended face-to-face classes.”
The association observed that while some government institutions and corporate businesses are more likely to have ready-made online learning solutions for their students and employees, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) like most TVETS typically will not.
“TVETS require specific support from service providers and the Government to promote up-skilling and re-skilling of their employees and to explore online learning solutions during this period. In addition, we must also not overlook the fact that TVET and skills programs do not easily migrate to distance and online learning and hence the need for support.
“We know that the ripple down effects of the current crisis are profound and potentially long lasting. We have our young people staying at home not engaging in any meaningful skills development, this can lead to a high rate of juvenile delinquency as the adage goes “the idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” the group observed.
Meanwhile, the association’s chairman Abdoulie Sowe told The Standard via telephone yesterday that they are currently working on a survey to assess the impact of the five months’ closure.
“We are talking about over 100 institutions earning zero income for the past five months,” he said.
“Three months into the lockdown we wrote to the ministry of higher education asking for support for training institutions and salary for staff but they didn’t even respond to our letter. We went to sit again as the executive provided an action plan and yesterday, we wrote to them again to seek an audience with them to discuss some of these action plans to allow us to open partially,” he said.
He said the government has to find a solution to get them back to work because they will have to start making income.
“The bottom line is that we want to reopen while observing the health guidelines,” he added.