By Cherno Omar Bobb
Covid-19 has affected every institution but it is a matter of how far and in what way it has affected each institution, said the Deputy Director of the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSS), Mustapha Badjie, describing as one of the institutions seriously affected.
The NYSS, the government’s only youth service scheme in the country, was established as a commitment to youth development and in response to the acute problem of unemployment among youths in the country. It targets youth who fall within the age bracket of 17-30 years and are susceptible to some form of societal woes such as unemployment, indiscipline, frustration, and drug abuse. NYSS aims to inculcate discipline, develop positive attitudes and provide market-relevant skills to youth.
The pandemic has not only resulted in some people contracting the virus, losing their jobs, closure of businesses and schools but also resulted in a lot of deaths.
Badjie said the pandemic did not only affect their recruitment but also affected them financially. He added that the pandemic seriously also affected their internal capacity leading to the reduction of their working hours, number of their employees and students.
Badjie further said their number of students accommodated by certain workshops has dropped due to the pandemic. He went on to say that their decentralization derive has not been spared by the pandemic.
Favour Mendy, a second year architectural draftsmanship student at NYSS said schools’ closure affected her greatly because if not for the long closure of schools, she would have gone far with her course now.
“We missed over six months and it’s like we will restart again,” said Favour, who is still struggling to pay for her Ordinary National Diploma as a result of the pandemic.
Favour who also engages in petty business said it was not easy for her because the business she was holding on to by going round to people and sell had to also collapse with people not welcoming strangers in their homes due to the restrictions put into place by the government.
Sarjo Cham, head girl of NYSS 13th batch said the pandemic impacted their education as they were introduced to online classes, a system of education that most students were not familiar with.
Sarjo, who studied both physical fitness and electrical installation said 35% of her colleagues struggled due to poor internet connection, lack of proper smart phones to surf the net, and lack of understanding on how to use online apps.
“On a personal experience I missed a few tests because the phone I was using during the online classes could not connect to the internet,” she added, while describing the experience as frustrating and tiring.
She highlighted that education and students are the hope for a better tomorrow, saying, without education there is zero hope for a better tomorrow.
Ansumana Camara, a 13th batch student at NYSS said the pandemic affected his studies as classes were conducted virtually with him not having a proper smart phone.
Mr Camara, a welding and fabrication student added that he struggled with assignments because most of the time he had to borrow his friends phones to send his assignments to his lecturers. He highlighted that business has not also been flowing as expected, adding that they also lose certain contracts as a result of the pandemic.
Camara added that the pandemic affected him financially as well as his communications and studies. He therefore called on the government to support young people through NYSS, GTTI and other youth institutions to ensure young people desist from taking up the ‘back-way’ journey to Europe and stay in the country and contribute meaningfully towards its development.
Jacquelin SM Sylva, Finance & Admin Manager at National Youth Council (NYC) said the pandemic seriously affected young people who are into entrepreneurship, noting that this is because some of them purchased goods but before they could bring them into the country the pandemic stroke.
She added that another challenge was lack of stores to keep their goods while those who had their goods in the stores could not sell them and could not pay for the storage due to the closure of businesses by the government.
However, Sylva said NYSS’s decentralization drive paid dividends and actually mitigated some problems that the NYSS and NYC would have faced.
The first case of Covid-19 was reported on December 31, 2020 and the source of the outbreak was linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China).
The Gambia’s Ministry of Health confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus on Tuesday March 17, 2020.
As a precautionary measure, Gambian president Adama Barrow on the same day announced that all schools, including universities will be closed from 18 March 2020 for 21 days. Additionally, all public gatherings, including open markets were suspended immediately for three weeks. All overseas travel by public officials was also cancelled to prevent further spread of the virus.
Barrow issued an executive order on May 19, extending the country’s Covid-19 state of emergency by 21 days prohibiting public gatherings and schools, religious sites, public buildings, entertainment venues, and non-essential businesses. Restaurants were restricted to take-away orders and markets significantly reduced opening hours.
All flights in and out of The Gambia, apart from medical and air flight operations were suspended on March 23. The land border with Senegal was also closed except to essential supplies and security personnel. Restrictions were placed on public transport and passengers in private vehicles limited to no more than half capacity. Vehicles carrying commercial goods were also only allowed to have one passenger in the cabin.
As of 3rd September 2021, The Gambia officially registered 328 Covid-19 related deaths and 9,789 positive cases.