Is our national service scheme still on track?
There were negative comments from some quarters when the National Service Secretariat announced the deployment of service personnel in traffic management in some cities in the country.
To some people, that amounts to the misuse or wrong application of the talents of the service personnel who may have undertaken courses in various professions.
Those who held that view could be pardoned because over the years, the national service scheme has drifted from its philosophy of instilling in the youth the spirit of nationalism and patriotism and to expose them to the realities of the country’s development challenges before they settle down for adult life.
The national service concept was not an employment avenue but was purely for community service, especially in the rural areas where the services of most professionals were virtually non-existent.
The idea was not mooted to offer employment to young graduates in the banks, hotels and cozy offices in Accra, Kumasi and other urban centres.
Somewhere along the line, the ideals of the scheme were compromised and, therefore, what was supposed to be the exception became the norm and postings outside Accra and other cities were labelled as punishment by many service personnel.
It is imperative that before young graduates blossom into mature officers, they should render service without calculating the returns.
In that case, they will be in a better position to appreciate the real problems on the ground confronting our country.
They will also see the beauty of this country and its people.
It is then that when the time comes for them to assume leadership roles, they will realise that Accra constitutes just a minute fraction of the landmass called Ghana.
Many of the shortfalls the country is experiencing in the educational and health sectors in particular, especially with regard to posting to the rural areas, could have been effectively addressed if the national service scheme were operating with regard to the philosophy behind it. In that case, no service person would be in Accra or the regional capitals.
If today poverty, diseases and squalor exist in rural Ghana, if today most rural schools are in dilapidated structures and without trained teachers, it is because most often, our leaders quickly disengage themselves from the realities on the ground through ignorance or criminal negligence.
The national service scheme can still be made relevant if the managers can restructure its administration and remove the frustrations of the service personnel.
For instance, the secretariat can consider the option of camping service personnel at specific places for specific projects for a period.
In that case, the posting of service personnel to isolated places where they are confronted with accommodation problems will be removed or minimised.
The secretariat could also redesign its calendar of activities so that it can make use of the facilities of the senior high schools while they are on recess. That is if they want to apply the camping option.
In that case, service personnel could be mobilised to build schools, clinics, community centres and even irrigation dams just as some of us did several years ago at Dahwenya, near Tema. That will give every service person the fulfilment of serving one’s country.
If we had pursued this path all these years, the national service scheme would have left a legacy of schools, health facilities and agricultural projects, among many others, in our rural and farming communities.
Under the current situation, there is very little to show after every service period because most of the service personnel are posted to organisations and institutions where they leave very little mark in their operations.
The reason why the secretariat comes under severe pressure every year during postings is that the concept has been abused and the scheme is no longer that of national service but an easy method for job placement.
We can still make things work if the service scheme will stick to its core objectives of encouraging the spirit of national service among all segments of the Ghanaian society in the effort to build the nation through effective participation; undertaking projects designed to combat hunger, illiteracy, disease and unemployment; helping provide essential services and amenities, particularly in towns and villages of the rural areas; developing skilled manpower through practical training and promoting national unity; and strengthening the bonds of common citizenship among Ghanaians.