Youth organisations call for jobless solutions

Youth groups across Samoa are calling for solutions to rising levels of youth unemployment and school dropout rates. 

The Founder of the not-for-profit organisation Brown Girl Woke (B.G.W), Maluseu Doris Tulifau, said children were increasingly dropping out of school to support their families financially. 

In an interview with Samoa Observer on Tuesday, Maluseu said that the trend was underway before the COVID-19 pandemic-led downturn.

But she said the recent economic decline had shone a brighter light on the issue. 

Maluseu said there are not many job opportunities in Samoa and the country is likely to lose its population of young people to overseas opportunities to pick fruit or even worse, an increase in criminal activity due to the absence of opportunities. 

She said B.G.W is helping with youth-centred programmes and receives grants to pay for students to undertake mentorships or to cover school fees. 

She said that young people need to seek out economic opportunities. 

Maluseu pointed to the example of a family recently helped by the organisation, after they helped enrol young students into Don Bosco Technical College.

"The pandemic has made it more clear what youth have been lacking for decades here in Samoa quality education and employment opportunities," she said. 

"It's not new in Samoa for youth to drop out early from school to help their families and this can always cause a strain.

"A lot of families count on youth to make minimum wage to get by. This is a cycle that's hard to break for many families." 

She added that there had been an increase in criminal cases involving young people.

Maluseu said that B.G.W has been helping families to have discussions with their younger members and to consider technical institutions in favour of traditional academic institutions. 

"Especially now with [the] pandemic we need to find ways to make jobs that help our country for the next couple of years,” she said. 

“We need to see more carpentry, tech, green jobs that our kids are prepared for.”

She called on schools and businesses to cooperate to make programmes in schools that allow children who dropout to have a pathway to employment. 

"Brown Girl Woke has made safe spaces with schools for youth to speak about anything to make sure there's counselling," she said.

"We need to know what we are dealing with and the pandemic has exposed that more [is needed] for young people [who feel] helpless [after] dropping out of school.

"With politics happening the youth voices need to be heard on what these candidates will do for them."

The President for Youth and Students for Peace (Y.S.P) Oceania, Meehwa Atimalala, told the Samoa Observer that there were multiple causes of youth unemployment. 

She is of the view that it is not a single solution to such a complex problem. 

Ms. Atimalala stated that last year they held an online seminar on how young people can lift families out of poverty.

She shared an example of a student at the National University of Samoa (NUS), who faced monetary challenges to pay her tuition fees, requiring her to take time off from school to work and save money. 

The student was determined to go back to school and eventually saved enough money, which Ms. Atimalala says is an example of young people being capable of achieving anything they put their minds into.

Y.S.P Oceania has started a new project called S!NERGY which encourages young people to share ideas and compete for projects and, ultimately, the opportunity for funding. 

Ms. Atimalala said making sure young people’s energy is harnessed is essential to overcoming unemployment. 

A recent Samoa Bureau of Statistics report found the proportion of unemployed Samoan young people aged between 15-24 had nearly doubled between 2012 and 2017, rising from 16.4 per cent to 31.9 per cent.

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