Leveraging national service for development, self-sufficiency

Since its inception in 1973, the National Service programme, a compulsory one-year service required of all citizens of Ghana who are 18 years and above at the time of deployment, has attracted thousands of Ghanaian youths. 

The scheme which now operates under Act 426 (of 1980) has been responsible for shaping many a youth for adult life, while inculcating in them a sense of patriotism, one of the cardinal principles guiding its operation.

From a scheme mostly focused on developing a sense of volunteerism and patriotism among its youth, the National Service Scheme (NSS) has grown within the past five decades into a vibrant programme with several modules and initiatives that have helped the youth to chart a career path for themselves.

These have included a short teaching programme for service persons posted to educational establishments, youth in housing, macro, small and medium-sized enterprises, accounting aid, data and research, as well as youth in agriculture.

While we congratulate the NSS on its golden jubilee and for staying relevant all these years, we join President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s, charge to the scheme to align its operations with the long-term development objectives of the country.

The scheme has already been impactful in the areas of education, health and information and communications technology (ICT) as well as other sectors, annually deploying personnel to assist in those areas.

However, specifically tailoring its programmes to meet the needs of those sectors would be meeting our national needs and we urge the NSS to consider that as suggested by the President at the scheme’s 50th anniversary celebration.

In the wake of the massive youth unemployment not only in the country, but across the globe, the Daily Graphic believes that the NSS needs to change its focus from just giving its personnel the opportunity to taste work life to giving the students who form the bulk of its beneficiaries, vocations that are needed by industry, once they complete their one-year service.

This step would help deal with the age-old challenge of a gap between our education system and the manpower needs of our industries.

The Daily Graphic is already aware of administrative arrangements by the NSS to expand its scope of operations to respond to the exigencies of the time, by creating and executing initiatives to harness the potential of the youth for national cohesion and job creation for sustainable development.

Nonetheless, if these arrangements are to be successful, we crave the indulgence of all stakeholders to push the Draft bill that seeks to transition the NSS into an authority, into law without further delay.

The Executive Director of the NSS, Osei Assibey Antwi, announced last December that the bill was before the Cabinet and would empower the scheme to take major decisions that would revolutionise its operations when approved and passed into law by Parliament.

He stated also that attaining the status of an authority would strategically position the scheme to make more impact by harnessing the potential of the youth for national development, equipping the youth with skills for them to make a living after the mandatory service to the nation, and position the scheme well to rake in more internally generated funds, thus lifting the burden off the government.

Reiterating the existence of the bill, President Akufo-Addo also announced the establishment of a draft policy document to guide the scheme in its work, adding, “The policy and the law will give backing to a model called deployment for employment, a scheme designed to encourage young graduates to create a positive impact and contribute to the development of our nation.”

Apart from the President, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has also given an assurance that allocation of funds to the scheme would be scrutinised by Parliament, while the Chief Justice, Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkonoo, has suggested a review in the operations of the scheme so that it will make more impact on national development.

The statements by the country’s heads of the Legislature and the Judiciary show the importance the nation attaches to the scheme in a bid to improve on it to enable it to deliver its mandate to the best of its ability.

We urge industry to respond to the scheme’s call for strategic partnerships with other institutions to build the capacity of young graduates for them to acquire employable skills.

We can only help the NSS to become better and impact our national development. If the NSS fails, then we have failed as a nation to secure the future of our youth and the country as a whole.

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