Saturday, October 1 2022

The future looked bright for Tinashe Mapuranga, an intern at a major Zimbabwe bank who looked ready for a job as soon as he graduated from college.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Amid the closures, the 24-year-old was one of the first to be fired and has no idea when he will be able to graduate due to frequent school closings.

Mapuranga spends most of his time at home, tending to a small vegetable patch which is the family’s main source of food.

Her mother makes a living traveling to South Africa selling items like stone carvings and brooms on the streets, a business also hit hard by the pandemic.

Mapuranga’s situation may seem dire, but he says he is concerned about some of his unemployed peers who have fallen into alcohol, drugs and prostitution.

Across Africa, many others like Mapuranga are battling the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, losing their jobs and seeing their education disrupted, according to a survey of people aged 18 to 24 in 15 countries.

The pandemic has increased the already high level of unemployment within the group, according to preliminary results of the second annual survey of young people in Africa.

Almost 20% of the 4,500 people surveyed said they had become unemployed because of the pandemic and 37% were forced to stop or suspend their studies.

According to the survey commissioned by the Johannesburg-based Ichikowitz Family Foundation, 8% saw their wages cut, 18% had to return home and 10% said they had to take care of family members.

“The survey therefore revealed that a significant percentage of young people surveyed who were employed had lost their jobs or had their wages reduced or had lost income,” said the founder of the foundation, Ivor Ichikowitz.

Of the 1.3 billion people in Africa’s 54 countries, an estimated 250 million are between the ages of 18 and 24.

Respondents said the pandemic has caused substantial disruption to their schooling, highlighting Africa’s need for more computers and internet access for online education.

“Last year I didn’t even learn,” Zimbabwe student Tadiswa Zhemero said.

“I only learned for a month and it really affected me.”

She said the pandemic not only affected her studies, but also impacted her family’s income as both parents’ jobs were affected.

In 2020, around 40% of those polled expressed optimism about the future.

The pandemic has shaken that confidence, reducing it to 31%, according to the survey.

*** AP ***

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