By Mohamed Massaquoi
Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), with support from the World Bank, has targeted youth empowerment in the eastern district of Kono by setting up skills training centres for 300 youth to be trained in various skills, including information and technology, electrification and fitting, auto mechanic and carpentry.
The beneficiaries were drawn from five diamond mining communities – Tankoro, Nimikoro, Gbense, Nimiyama and Sandor.
NMJD Project Officer, Erick Keilie, said the funds were secured from the Breton Woods institution to address numerous challenges highlighted by youth themselves, and in a bid to make them self reliant.
“This project started since November 2013 with stakeholder’s consultative meeting. Recruitment was completed in January with the involvement of all the authorities in the district,” he revealed.
The project, according to many youths interviewed, will transform their living standards for sustainable development, more so when most of the arable lands have been destroyed as a result of mining activities.
The predominance of youth in artisanal diamond mining in the district is a perennial socio-economic issue which impacts negatively on the human capital of that district and the country as a whole.
Kono is a politically volatile district, with the preponderance of unemployed and unemployable youth being a serious concern to policy makers and development actors.
The government introduced measures to reduce youth unemployment, including creating a national Youth Commission in 2009, to improve youth skills, job opportunities and engagement in local governance, but the youth challenge remains largely unsolved, not least in Kono which has a teeming illiterate youth population.
In April this year, President Ernest Bai Koroma launched an ambitious US$ 217.5m three year National Youth Programme that seeks to create one million decent new jobs for youth – the first and biggest national youth programme.
For now, majority of the youth population are still engaged in the mines, mostly as unskilled workers with unsecured job tenure.