In both the Lower and Upper River Regions of The Gambia, the Project saw the revival and / or opening of five centers. Specifically in LRR, two TVET centers, namely Girls’ Guide Skills Training Centre and Soma Scouts Skills Training Centre, were revived after many years of partial inactivity. This move realized the upscaling of Garment Making as well as the introduction of new trade areas like Block Laying & Concreting and Small Engine Repair & Maintenance in Soma Scouts. The introduction of the trade areas and improvement in the existing ones needed procurement of some essential materials to enable a robust and effective learning environment, which the GIZ managed to put in place with funding from the EU’s Trust Fund for Africa.
"The intervention of GIZ in 2020 brought a lot of impact to the centre as life was brought back. We are enrolling more students now and the first batch of beneficiaries have completed their course as well as their attachment, and are now being assessed by NAQAA,” explains Alasana Trawally, Centre Manager at the Soma Scouts Skills Training Centre. He further added that some tools in the form of state-of-the-art sewing machines, bricklaying instruments, and equipment for small engine repairs were supplied to help the students in their practicals, giving their courses much needed value.
One of the female trainees who had been dreaming of becoming a seamstress and played with clothing for dolls at a tender age, has now been given the opportunity at the Soma Scouts to live that dream by enrolling in the garment-making course. “Garment-making has always been my passion since I was a kid. I used to buy dolls and make sizable clothes for them, it was the main reason that I wasted no time in joining the programme after graduating from high school,” says Fatou S. Ngum, thanking the EU through GIZ for the opportunity to learn her dream trade.
The small engine and repairs unit also has committed students enrolled in the training, one of them being Buba Ceesay who was seen keenly taking instructions from the course supervisor: “I just want to urge young people to take skills training very seriously because I didn't want to go through the illegal journey to Europe due to its risky nature. Young people can stay and make it in the Gambia, especially with the support of this EU-GIZ Tekki Fii programme that sponsored me,” he stressed.
In Girls’ Guide, Animal Husbandry, and Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy were also introduced. The centre was refurbished with training tools and equipment which have fully revived the institution and created a conducive environment for the youth of LRR as disclosed by the Centre Manager Alhagie B. Corr.
Here, against all prejudices and stereotypes, even young women are taking centre stage in deciding their fields of study by showing much interest and enrolling in Animal husbandry. Ramatoulie Kandeh from Mansakonko is a typical example: "I have learned how to operate my poultry including ways to control diseases, and now I am fully armed with the required knowledge to operate my poultry house without limitations thanks to the EU-GIZ Tekki Fii Project.”
In the same vein, Lamin Fatty a high school graduate and run-away teacher is also a beneficiary who just completed his course in Animal husbandry. “I just want young people to grab opportunities offered to them. If someone is giving you all the resources to excel, you must also be willing to actively take part and be involved in shaping your country's economic progress, which I am fully ready to do now," Lamin emphasized.
Between them, the Soma centres have completed training in favor of 100 young Gambians in the five trade areas mentioned above, with an additional 100 trainees currently enrolled. Out of these 200 trainees, 55 of them have transitioned into the Project’s entrepreneurship training program. Upon successful completion of the six-months business coaching, they will be awarded start-up kits to launch their businesses.
Regional authorities, like the office of the Governor, the Mansakonko Area Council and the Technical Assistance Committee have all been working closely with the EU-GIZ Project to ensure that these centers are left on a sustainable footing to serve the interest of communities in the region. In this context, they have re-instituted the governance structures of the Soma centers by inaugurating a new board of directors to perform an oversight function. The Governor of the LRR and the CEO of Mansakonko Area Council both recommit to ensuring the centers’ excellence.
However, not only were the centres refurbished, but the trainers were extensively trained on ways to handle their training modules and were given eminent managerial skills to contribute to the overall sustenance of this intervention in LRR. Technical representatives from the most prestigious training centres in GBA including industry experts were engaged to upskill all units of both centres. The combination of all these investments are contributing to the sustainability chain built by all stakeholders for an everlasting programme spearheaded by GIZ through EU funding under the Tekki Fii - Make it in The Gambia flagship program.