#National News

EU’s Tekki Fii Program in Mile II: Giving Ex-Inmates a Second Chance

Feb 11, 2021, 1:45 PM

In empowering over 5000 youths to acquire technical and entrepreneurial skills and shape their own lives, the EU Tekki Fii Project managed by GIZ has embraced an inclusive approach.

The Project targets individuals from vulnerable groups such as women, persons with disability, returnees, victims of human trafficking etc. regardless of their background or descent, providing them with opportunities to learn a trade and tekki fii or make it in The Gambia. Among its beneficiaries, detainees from Mile II, The Gambia’s main detention center, represent a unique group that requires special attention, but that also has the potential to yield a significant return on investment for society at large.

To prevent recidivism amongst the detainees and ensure that they engage in meaningful activities during the service of their detention term, the Prison Authorities accepted to invest in practical training, opening its doors to GIZ and its implementing partner, Insight Training Center. As of now, 63 detainees from Mile II have completed their training programs in Garment Making, Tiling & Plastering, Satellite Installation, and Solar Installation, whilst 20 additional trainees are undergoing a-six-month course in Satellite Installation. All detainees were exposed to additional classes like Numeracy, English Communication and Entrepreneurship.

Alhagie M. Jawo, Head of Academics at Insight Training Center shares his experience in working with detainees: “One thing I learned as a trainer during this training period is that not all prisoners are in prison because they are bad. If guided, these people can be very intelligent and successful in their societies.”

For most of the inmates, the much-needed training is an opportunity to courageously go back into their communities and rebuild their lives, knowing in advance that they cannot always rely on their families, as stressed by Lamin Kujabi who trained in Solar and Electrical Installation: “Life after prison was not easy at all because some of my close relatives and friends turned their backs on me. As a family man, the training means I have more reason to take my life seriously and not commit the same mistakes I did before.”

The stories aren’t so different from the many beneficiaries who saw the training opportunity as a turning point, as most of them were charged with light offenses that could have been easily prevented if they had been preoccupied with a meaningful skill.  Alieu Sanneh and Ebrima Ndow who trained in Satellite Installation and Solar Installation respectively, are eager to see what the new skills will yield as they begin to explore opportunities in their respective domains after leaving Mile II.

Demba Baldeh, another ex-detainee, got so strongly engaged in the Satellite training that just one month before graduation, the Prison Authorities ended up reducing his sentence and finally released him back to civil life. Demba is now working full-time as warehouse manager in a construction company. Aside from his regular job, he also has a range of clients for whom he installs and fixes satellites.

A total of 83 inmates from Mile II will benefit from the EU-GIZ Tekki Fii's intensive skills training program. The head of the TVET component at GIZ, Momodou Bittaye, also highlighted the next steps for the Ex-inmates as they complete their training: “Now that they are released, we are supporting them to transit towards self-employment through three months of industrial attachment, besides providing them with transport allowance, start-up kits and business coaching for six months to establish and manage their own business successfully.” To also facilitate their integration and rehabilitation, the Project has planned to hire a psychosocial expert to provide services to the beneficiaries and their immediate families.

The training program and above all the complementing benefits offered to the ex-detainees to facilitate their reintegration into society are substantial, but so is the impact: So far, no single case of recidivism has been reported amongst the skills training graduates from the various batches. Providing them with a second chance has proven a real success story. As Demba Baldeh concludes: “If I can make it now with the Tekki Fii skills training program while in prison, Gambian youths in the street can make it better. Take up the challenge and seize the youth empowerment opportunities available!”