Young, Graduated, Unemployed: Gambia’s Job Hunting Millennials Face Harsh Reality
For any university student, a graduation day is supposed to mark the end of a difficult and painful chapter and open the gate for prosperity. But in The Gambia, it’s the beginning of harsh reality for many graduates.
The University of The Gambia (UTG) churns out hundreds of students every year, and for a large number of them there are no job prospects because of the brutal job market. While many of the graduates pant in pains under the pangs of economic hardship triggered by joblessness, many others have found themselves working at low-pay unskilled jobs just to survive.
“As a university graduate people expect you to take care of yourself and other people, like your family,” says Ousman Conteh, a 2018 computer science UTG graduate who has been struggling to find a job. “When I ask people for help, they’d mock me that for over 20 years I have been going to school and I have nothing to show. They see my education as a waste of time and money. Such things can easily break you and lead you to frustration.”
Prior to his university education, Ousman attended St. Peter’s Upper Basic School where he got aggregate 6 in the GABECE examination. He proceeded to Nusrat Senior Secondary School where he graduated with 9 credits, gaining him admission into the university. Since last year, he’s been making series of failed attempts at finding computer-related jobs.
Out of frustration and because of pressure from family, he resorts to doing any random job that comes his way.
“I really don’t expect the government to provide jobs for everyone but they can provide the facilities so as to level the playing field,” Ousman says.
Like Ousman, Amie J. Bah graduated from the University of The Gambia in 2018 with a GPA of 3.7 in accountancy. She’s been searching for a job since then without success.
“I am married and my husband is helping me with all my needs because I’m jobless.”
Amie sent applications to different work places but she hasn’t gotten response from any of them despite making follow-ups. “I was not prepared for this because I was expecting that after graduation I’d find greener pastures,” she says. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I didn’t think it would be this difficult.”
Alpha Jallow graduated from the UTG in 2015. For him, what was supposed to be a great post-graduation life has turned out to be a nightmare.
“I applied to six different places for employment and only two responded and I was rejected by both. It is really affecting me, I cannot fend for myself and it’s really frustrating,” he tells The Chronicle.
“I know about seven or eight people who graduated from different faculties at the UTG but still can’t find jobs. I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard.”
The Gambia’s youth unemployment rate is high and it’s expected to go higher. Ebrima Dem is the founder and CEO of Gamjobs, an online advertisement, job listing and marketing firm registered in 2014 to connect job providers to job seekers. He admitted that many students find it difficult to get jobs after graduation, but blames the problem partly on the fact that many of them cannot create marketable CVs to market themselves to employers.
Many several job seekers complained about the ‘unfair requirements’ attached to conditions of getting certain jobs with emphasis on work experience. But according to Dem, this is misconstrued.
“We don’t expect a fresh graduate to have five to ten years of working experience. It doesn’t really tally. Experience can be even voluntary work. Maybe one being part of a community development organization or something that will really be able to match what you apply for. These things would be a good inclusion in your CV.”
Dem advised students to take considerable time in career selection, suggesting that they should study base on market demands to ease the job confrontation after graduation.
“I think it depends on what you study. In my own view you go into something without knowing exactly what you want to be. I think it’s best to study something that would make you more marketable.”
Ninety five percent of Gamjob’s job applicants are UTG graduates.
With the help GAMBJOBS, according its CEO, 95 percent of their applicants are UTG graduates mainly in the areas finance and human resources. Sixty five percent of the clients/potential employers are from the NGOs.
While the UTG takes in more students and churns out more graduates, torments of escalating employment await those who work hard in order to graduate into prosperity. It goes to show that unless the authorities fix the youth unemployment problem, no academic qualification can guarantee a bright future.