The National Service Scheme is established in 1973, with the mandate of deploying a pool of skilled manpower drawn primarily from tertiary institutions to support development efforts of both the public and private sectors. It offers opportunities to the youth who were trained at the taxpayer’s expense to give back to society. This is also a way of inculcating the culture of volunteerism and patriotism in the youth.
In the last few years, the scheme had deployed an average of 70,000 national service personnel each year to various user agencies, with education being the greatest beneficiary. The Scheme as currently constituted provides newly qualified graduates the opportunity to have practical exposure on the job, both in the public and private sectors, as part of their civic responsibility to the State. It also provides user agencies the opportunity to meet their manpower needs and affords communities that would otherwise have difficulty in accessing mainstream development initiatives, such as improved social services through community service.
This year, the National Service Secretariat has deployed 91,871 personnel to serve in various institutions. This year, about 76,908 representing 85 percent of the service personnel deployed would serve in the public sector while the remaining 14,963, representing 15 percent have been posted to the private sector. About two thousand 170 personnel are to serve in agriculture related positions as part of government's ‘Planting for food and jobs’ program. It is however sad that in spite of assurances to put measures in place to ensure that this years’ service registration is without challenges, prospective Service personnel who have been posted to serve within Ledzokuku Krowor and La Dade-Kotopon Municipal Assemblies were struggling to go through the process of registration with long disorganised queues.
To make matters worse, the scene turned chaotic when soldiers who were brought in to maintain order, started using belts and sticks on them. It is unfortunate that these young graduates had to endure such a torture and high handedness from the military, simply because they wanted to fulfill one of their civic responsibilities. They can however take solace in the apology issued by the management of the national service secretariat and the assurances to put further measures in place to ease the congestion to make way for smooth registration process.
In this day and age, it is ridiculous that the scheme will want to insist on manual registration. There may be good reasons, such as preventing impersonation and double registration by wanting the prospective personnel to show their physical presence. There are far better reasons for doing it online, after all, there can be checks and balances to reduce if not eliminate the envisaged challenges and problems.
The decision to deploy some personnel to the agriculture sector this year to support the planting for food and jobs initiavtive is very laudable. This will go a long way to ensure the success of the program and change the negative perceptions about farming. Seeing university and polytechnic graduates in farms will certainly motivate a lot of youth to also take up farming. For instance, Barimayena is a farming community in the Atwima Mponua District of the Ashanti Region that has benefitted immensely from the National Service Scheme. It was in this remote community that a young volunteer initiated a journey that promised to leave footprints on the sands of the history of the community.
The concept of a national service is a good one. Its importance cannot be underestimated. It must remain national service and not national suffering as some people jokingly refer to it. It is therefore important for all stakeholders to play their part to ensure that service personnel do not go thorough pain trying to serve their country. It is also important for user agencies to ensure that they utilize service persons effectively and efficiently and not allow them to warm desks or run errands for their bosses and supervisors.
National service must also offer the personnel the opportunity to have some practical experience from the field. It is critical that, government and other beneficiaries do well to pay them their allowance promptly and regularly. It is an allowance and not a salary. This is to support them to carter for their basic needs such as transportation fare and rent. It puts a lot of pressure on them, when the payment is delayed.
BY DAN OSMAN MWIN, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, MINISTRY OF EDUCATION.