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Opinions Sat, 1 Oct 2016

Making national service beneficial

As a nation with almost a million of people graduating each year at the tertiary level of education, is the aim of the National Service Scheme being realised in the economy?

I have been to several organisations and have met service personnel who sit idle either watching movies or playing games.

The only time you meet them doing something is when they have been sent on an errand, maybe to deliver a letter to the next office or sort out documents. Once in a while, they go on the field; some are turned to messengers and end up making tea for everyone in the office.

Upon research, I realised we as a nation are missing the mark and purpose of the scheme: ‘For national development.’ The mission of the scheme is to “mobilise and deploy Ghanaian citizens of 18 years and above for national development.”

The scheme started in 1973 and is 43 years old but I think the impact of the scheme has not been realised in national development because we just post people anywhere, anyhow.

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It is a shame to know that most service persons do not even know why they are posted, since it looks more of an annual ritual than an annual step to improve development.

In 2015, there was a directive which included Motor Traffic Regulation to the Scheme (I stand to be corrected). Many Ghanaians, including myself, spoke against it but come to think of it; I believe that is the mandate of the National Service.

“The scheme, as currently constituted, provides newly qualified graduates with 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 satisfy their manpower needs and affords communities that would otherwise have difficulty in accessing mainstream developmental initiatives, access to improved social services through community service.” – Mandate of the Scheme (National Service Scheme Website)

If these guys who stand in traffic are service persons and their service to the nation is felt, what are the others being made to do? Look around Ghana, especially the regional capitals where lawns are mostly grown and also where filth is at its best.

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What would it take to deploy National Service Persons to such areas to maintain these parks and gardens with the necessary tools? What if, aside traffic congestion control and teaching, the government placed these ones in government farms, if there are any, to help in mass production of food.

One needs not to have necessarily been an agricultural student to do this. What this would mean is that we will indirectly be training people to create for themselves job opportunities in the agricultural sector after National Service.

Those who don’t go into full time farming would in a way be equipped in self-farming. This will somehow increase self-sufficiency as an individual and as a country, thus reducing the rate at which we import food.

Just as people are made to support the Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU), I believe the National Service Secretariat in collaboration with Zoomlion, the Department of Parks and Gardens etc can push more graduates into these areas. It increases the human resource and moreover the capacity of these agencies each year.

After toiling to clean the environment and keep it neat, we would have a generation of civilian vigilantes who would not only watch people throw rubbish indiscriminately but stop them.

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Should this continue for the next 10 to 20 years, we as a nation would be making progress, so instead of posting people to offices were their input is not significant to the nation, why don’t we put them out there to make a change?

I guess companies would be saving themselves the cost of paying internet bills and all that.

National Service has already begun but I’ll urge the secretariat to not just post because it is the time of the year to do so but make sure the said organisations and institutions in subsequent years would really need the services of these graduates not only for their ability to prepare or purchase tea or waakye but for their capacity and ability to be useful to national development.

Columnist: Manny Bavard