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Impact of Covid-19 on Gambia’s Only Tourism & Hospitality Institute

By Ousainou J. Sawaneh
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has severely affected many countries, institutions and industries since January 2020. Despite studies on COVID-19 from different perspectives, research on the impact of COVID-19 on Hospitality and Tourism education remains scanty. The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute (GTHI) Hotel School is not an exception as many students’ education and the institute itself was seriously affected.
On one hand, the hotel school education has certain disadvantages to online studying, including high cost internet for students who would otherwise study away from their family home.
COVID-19 has a severe negative impact on education in general, ranging from kindergartens to universities. Given that schools are densely populated with high mobility, they serve as high-risk places for the spread of COVID-19.
The worldwide school closures severely affected 56.6% of students from 130 countries (UNESCO, 2020).
According to research conducted by Hong Kong on the impact of covid-19 on Tourism and Hospitality education stated that ‘‘Fortunately, having learned from the 2003 SARS outbreak, hospitality and tourism educators are continuously adjusting response actions to the unknown pandemic situation, and exerting their best to maintain the operation of the education system. Therefore, the hospitality and tourism educational has shifted from offline to online educational delivery during this period’’
Muhammed Jammeh a student of the GTHI and now on attachment at the Tamala Hotel stated, the challenges he encountered during those days, ‘‘I was another victim of the COVID-19 as I have encountered a lot of troubles and always sitting at home without doing nothing. We were not having correct online classes. I was using my own data for the online classes and the online classes were not even effective’’ he said.
The high cost of the Gambian internet has also contributed negatively on Muhammed’s online classes and the school management was not also providing data for them to connect.
“But sometimes I miss classes due to lack of connection because the school was not providing internet for us. I use to take loan so that I will be able to connect and enjoy my classes but this will not take long as the Gambian internet cost is very expensive” he said
He added “it was really hard on me because I have to go to people’s compounds to connect on their Wi-Fi ” he explained.
Jammeh added this was really a challenging period for him as his time was also wasted a lot. “I was supposed to study my course for one academic year but instead we spend one year and five months and this has really wasted my time a lot” he said
He also thank the school management for their hard work after the lockdown “they really tried a lot for us after the covid, so that we can capture all the time we missed” he said
The Hong Kong research further said ‘‘the increasing growth of the tourism industry in recent decades has created a large demand for hospitality and tourism higher education (Airey et al., 2005). Considering that the ultimate purpose of hospitality and tourism higher education is to provide professionally trained talents to the tourism industry (Lo, 2006), the design of its curriculum and the teaching paradigm are different from traditional courses’’.
On her part a 23 year old Female Foundation student at the GTHI also highlighted some of the challenges she faced. She said the Tourism season was very poor and she didn’t have the opportunity to go on for attachment.
“Really my case is different because after finishing my second level, I was supposed to go for attachment but due to COVID-19, I was just sitting at home doing nothing” she said.
A 20 year old Malleh Mbye also a Foundation student of the Institute said the COVID-19 has affected everyone but on the side of the school the case is different.
He added that they were not able to do there practical work on time as expected which he said has seriously impacted on them.
Speaking on the online classes, Malleh said the school management has try a lot to see that they are connected but this was not possible, “over 9 months we were not going to school and I was not doing anything at home. After the schools reopen, learning was not effective” he said
“I do not think I have the discipline to sit down and have no one teach me at home after the school were closed and this has affected me a lot’’ he said
Oley Touray also a student of the institute said that covid-19 has negatively impacted on their education. She said months she had no education after the closure of the institute, and was concerned that this might affect her in the future.
She said during those days they were only focusing on their online classes adding this classes were not effective as they provide data for themselves. ‘‘I always ask my parents to give me money to buy credit, sometimes I even feel shy to ask them but I don’t have any choice, because am not working. And the school was not providing data for us. This was really challenging’’ she said
Consistent with international protocols related to the Covid-19 global pandemic and to further limit the spread of the virus, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture have also release a statement instructing all operators within the Tourism and Leisure Industry to have their staff fully vaccinated.
‘‘Therefore, tour and hotel operators, bars and restaurants, casinos and nightclubs, swimming pools, foreign exchange bureau, taxi-cab operators, salon and barbershops, gymnasia, fruit vendors, boutiques and guest houses and lodges, tourist guides, bird watchers, boat owners, guest houses, camps and lodges, travel agent operators , beauty and massage palours, mini/supermarkets, museums and art galleries, juice pressers, horse riders, equipment hirers, upcountry tourism facilities, cultural and historic sites and tourist markets within the Tourism Development Area (TDA), are strictly instructed to comply with this directive.
Operators, who fail to heed this directive, shall be rendered unsafe to partake in the upcoming tourism season’’ Tourism Ministry said
Honourable Assan Touray, National Assembly Member for Bakau and Member of the Select Committee on Tourism, Arts and Culture said the COVID-19 has seriously impacted on the Tourism sector adding the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute was also not an exception considering the fact that most students were unable to go on for attachments.
Hon. Touray highlighted that through their findings as National Assembly select committee on Tourism, they have realized that some students who are graduating from the Institute are no longer having employment due to COVID-19.
“We have seen students from the Housekeeping department, Food and Beverage and students from the kitchen are not having any employment because hotels and restaurants are not operating, because of the COVID-19. If the hotels bad restaurants are not working effectively then it will be difficult for the students to have employments” he said
Touray further stressed that the committee will engage the government and ministry of Tourism in order to help the students of Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute.
“We understand that the ministry got some COVID-19 funding, but the way the funds were distributed is another thing. Some benefited and some feel that they didn’t benefit from it. But the reason behind that is yet to be known” he said.
The Parliamentarian further call on the Government and the Ministry of Tourism to come up with mechanisms to help the students of the Institute while calling on the students to keep patient as covid-19 is still in the country. He said

This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through its Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with Mai-Media and The Daily News

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