In today’s edition of the Youth Forum, we bring you a recent interview we had with Honourable Alieu K. Jammeh, Minister of Youth and Sports.
In this interview of earnest discussion, Minister Jammeh spoke of some of his plans and equally challenge youth to be more proactive.
Here, following, is an excerpt of the interview:
Youth Forum: To start with, how do you feel about your recent appointment as Minister of Youth and Sports?
Minister Jammeh: I really appreciate the opportunity given to me by the President and I want to thank him wholeheartedly for given me the task to head the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which has the mandate of implementing government objectives to empower young people of this country and also to develop sports.
It is a challenge and I hope and pray that God gives me the means and ability to fulfil the objectives that the President has for the Ministry and for putting me in charge.
Youth Forum: What are your plans for the Ministry?
Minister Jammeh: In the youth sector we want to see young people to be more enterprising, no doubt about that. Young people in this country have achieved a lot within the environment created by the government. If you look around, basically in all sectors - be it the service sector, telecommunications and banking industry - young people going in to acquire essential skills and higher education.
Yes must of them are not grasping those opportunities but we have seen really an increase in the number of young people who are going into each of these sectors and trying to be productively engaged.
Nonetheless, we have few who are still lacking behind. They are lacking behind and I would want to really work on these to reach them out where ever they are in the slumber, thinking of higher dreams which can never be achieved, to come and take the opportunities available.
You see, in life the way you make it, is through the little steps that you take. You cannot just get up one day and become a millionaire or a professor, doctor or a scientist or anything. You get to start in a little way adding things together, accumulating and eventually you are there. I believe that a good number of the young people are there that need to be talked to. I would go down to them; this is something I want to do very much - to go and engage them intensively where ever they are in the ghettoes, etc.
The second thing in the youth sector that I want to do, which is very close to the heart of the President is about attitudinal change among young people. You go around you see young people loitering doing nothing. You see them getting into drugs, petty crimes and adopting certain cultures that are alien to this country, in terms of dress code for instance.
We will begin with our elders - the custodians of our norms and culture - to engage them in the interest of posterity of keeping our cultures to see how they can work hard with the government, to see how our cultures can be transmitted to generations that would succeed them.
We are seeing a dislocation, if you like, of degeneration of our fathers and grandfathers with the generation of today in the sense that what those people wear, eat, do, etc are things that are not being copied by our young people. So we are asking the question: ‘What is responsible? Is it that the elders are not taking their responsibilities or are the young people too much influenced by foreign culture? So we need to have a programme along that line to talk to these young people and make them understand that their culture is very valuable.
“The core of the population of this country are young people; we cannot accelerate growth and employment in the absence of young people. So we are saying: ‘Go into agriculture, fisheries, carpentry and skills acquisition in general to enhance growth.
It is not everybody who can have office work and you may be surprised that there are some good farmers and fishermen who probably earn more than what me and you earn. So they need to know. We also intend to intensify interventions and successes made in previous years – InsaAllah!.
Youth Forum: This reminds me of your youth farms. How successful were they and do you intend to make it an annual programme?
Minister Jammeh: Yes, and they are very successful. We thank the President very much for the youth farms and the support he has given to the youth farms; it was based on his inspiration. And he provided every thing, such as seven tractors and about four hundred bags of fertilizer, and anything else anyone else gave us was because the president gave us his initial support.
We have over thirty farms across the country of different sizes and each district has a farm owned and run by the young people with different crop types. Currently they are being harvested and processed and we will get to know the quantity of the produce, and the President says he wants to encourage them to stay and we want to ensure that happens.
Now the way we are doing that is that the President intends to pay for all the produce of those farms so that young people will see some immediate returns of their work and sweat. We want to turn the initiative into a permanent programme from this year.
Youth Forum: There are so many unemployed youths in the country. Is this a priority concern to your ministry?
Minister Jammeh: In deed unemployment is not only a concern and priority to my ministry but also to the entire government. That is why the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) came about. And we are focussing on the productive base of the economy, such as agriculture. The sector can employ a lot of people and is one of the vibrant industries all over the world.
Youth Forum: Some people have some reservations regarding some of the departments under your ministry I am especially talking about NYSS, the President’s Awards Scheme and the like. What is your take in this?
Minister Jammeh: That too is undergoing what we call a process of regeneration, if you like. If you look around all of our institutions under the ministry we have new management teams in place. The stadium has a new management team, The PIA - we are working on that and the NYSS has a new executive director and we are working on amending their Act to make them reflect on the current realities.
So we are going through an extensive restructuring programme at the ministry. And any time we finish that, these institutions would become more vibrant and more responsive.
We never had a planning unit at the ministry; InshaAllah this year we are planning to create one. I want to assure everybody that the NYSS is on track likewise all other institutions under the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Youth Forum: A good number of our youth centres in the country are not up to standard if you like. Do you have any plans to rehabilitate these centres for them to serve their purposes?
Minister Jammeh: Yes, the ones that are under the ministry, for example the Bansang one, have accommodation facility on commercial basis, basket ball court; so those are very good standard. So there are community centres also in some areas that are not directly under the ministry but what the ministry is doing trough the youth council is to work with communities of these areas to see what can be put in place. In some of these centres there are instances when they need to adjust but it has to be done the communities themselves.
Youth Forum: In your final words what advice do you have for young people? By the way is illegal migration a concern to you?
Minister Jammeh: Let’s say no to drugs and alcohol, and value our culture as Gambians and Africans. The young people have to acquire the right skills and respect authority. The youth should desist from illegal migration since it is never greener at the other side as they think.
So we are saying: ‘stay here’, since the things they would look low upon here they sometimes end up doing them over there. So we are saying: ‘Stay here and make the best use of the opportunities’.
Youth Forum: Honourable, thank you for your time.
Minister Jammeh: It’s my pleasure.