In Apataim there are no jobs for the youth when they have finished their education. This means that a most of the young population are unemployed, while some are forced to leave the community in search for a job elsewhere.
»ADYA!« shouts Erskine Benyanzor while he stands up to address his fellow community members. The fifty people that are gathered at the community centre in Apataim, answer his call in unison: »Power! Action Now!« Apatiam is one of the new communities in Nzema East district that UCSOND has just visited and added to their programme. The representatives from UCSOND are visiting the community in order to register the Apataim Development Youth Association(ADYA) as a future member or civic union of UCSOND.
Unemployment is one of the major problems that the community of Apataim is faced with. There are not enough jobs in the community to engage everyone, especially the youth have a hard time finding job when they have finished school.
Fleeing from the community
Erskine Benyanzor is twenty-four years and is one of the members of ADYA. Like most of the young people in Apataim, he has not been able to find a job since he finished Senior High.
»There are no jobs to be found here, so the only option we have is to move to the big cities like Tarkoradi, Kumasi or Accra in search of a job,« he says.
He is now thinking about moving to Kumasi to find a job as a mason, mainly because this is the only option he has left.
»My parents are not able to help me, and I do not have any money, so I have to move away to find a job elsewhere. It is not my intention to go away. If I could choose I would like to stay here and help the community and be close to my family and friends,« says Erskine Benyanzor.
The problem is that moving to one of the big cities does not necessarily guarantee a job. According to a report conducted by Ghana Statistical Service last year, the level of unemployment is at least three times higher in urban areas than in the rural areas. A lot of young people therefore move to the big cities without finding any job. An issue that Erskine Benyanzor also underlines:
»It is hard to find a job in a new city when you don´t have any relatives or friends that can help with accommodation and contacts, but there is nothing else I can do but to try it out. If I don’t succeed I will have to return.«
Unemployment among the youth in Ghana is an increasing national problem. The last 40 years there has been rapid increase in youth population that now constitute 20% of Ghana’s overall population and economically active people. According to the report, more than 70% of the unemployed in Ghana can be found in the age group of 15-29 years.
The report is based on statistical measures conducted by The World Bank back in 2010, but as the minister of Employment and Social Welfare of Ghana has expressed in more than one occasion, the government of Ghana still don’t know the true unemployment rate. It is therefore not possible to predict whether the percentage has decreased or not, considering the different definitions on how to measure unemployment. Bottom-line is that unemployment, especially among the youth group is a serious problem.
There is a significant social and economic cost associated with underutilization of the skills and time of the youth. The lack of employment opportunities may result in social conflicts, including violence and juvenile delinquency, which in turn lead to high social costs. The increasing incidence of street hawking and migration of Ghanaian youth across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean in search of economic opportunities in Europe, with its attendant risk, are not only symptoms of labour market challenges facing the youth, but also a reflection of a sense of hopelessness.
Education is the key
According to the report one of the major reasons to the huge unemployment among the youth is the condition of the school system. The general level of education is too low, while the students are not provided with competencies that are linked with the skills that are actually needed in the important sectors of the economy. At the same time, the current economical situation makes it hard for many families to provide enough money to pay for the school fees.
Eighteen-year-old Ebenezer Winful just finished Senior High School which is the highest educational level you can get in Apataim. He really wants to go to training college and become a teacher, but it is not possible right now due to the national financial constraint and the economical situation of the family. Like many other young people, Ebenezer Winful is currently helping his father and uncle out with agricultural activities in the field. This means that he from a statistical point of view would be categorized as having a job. The problem is that the agricultural activities in the rural areas are characterized by giving very low earnings. In order to pay for the school fees, Ebenezer Winful has to find a paid job, but this has proved to be difficult.
»I have been sending out about six job applications for jobs in the area but I have not received any response from any of them,« he says.
The economic downturn has resulted in insufficient jobs, and that young people often face labour demand barriers and discrimination due to limited or no job experience and insufficient exposure to a working environment. The school system does not correspond to the changing demands in the labour market, and the youth is therefore not prepared for these conditions.
Theresah Sam is 48 years old and a mother of five. She is barely able to write her own name, but she is working hard to secure the future for her children. At the time when her two oldest sons graduated Senior High, she did not have enough money to pay for their further education, so they had to drop out of school. Both of them have since then had a hard time finding a job. One of them is now searching for a job in Takoradi while the other is working in the illegal mining business.
»It pains me very much that I have paid for an education for my two oldest children that they could not use for anything. I hope that my cocoa plantation can give my three younger children the opportunity to get a higher education so they will at least have a future,« says Theresah Sam.
According to the report only 45% of the students that graduate from Junior High School continue to Senior High School, due to the high cost that are connected to school fees. The Government of Ghana are aware of the seriousness of the situation and have since 2010 launched a number of initiatives, to improve the school-to-work transition, and to ensure that more students are able to afford an education.
The Government of Ghana and the German Development Cooperation are at the same time implementing an initiative to improve the quality of the traditional apprenticeship system in selected trades through capacity building. The project is trying to link the informal sector to training institutes and other providers in order to offer complementary needs-based training to Master Craftspersons and apprentices.
Help from UCSOND
In Apataim however, it is hard to feel the impact of these initiatives. To the members of ADYA, they seem almost not present. As a result of this, the youth in Apataim have lost their faith in the governmental system. They feel like they are on their own.
The presence of UCSOND is therefor met with a lot of expectations and hope for the future. As a member of UCSOND, the youth association of Apataim can get some tools and training on how to secure their future livelihood, and build their capacity.