The commitment of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to government’s National Development Plan (NDP) as regards skills development is manifested in three distinct areas, one in collaboration with the national department tasked with rural development.
This is the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC), managed by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, which each year sees around a thousand young men and women undergo a youth leadership development programme administered by the SANDF. This sees participants at either 3 SAI Battalion in Kimberley or SAS Saldanha.
The SANDF’s major internal contribution to skills training is its two-year military skills development (MSD) system which last month saw just over 1 400 young men and women enter basic military training at SA Air Force, SA Army and SA Navy bases. Following successful completion of basic military training (BMT) they will be mustered and assigned to units and formations nationally. Here specific skills, such as firefighting, nutrition and mechanics, will be taught. On completion of the two year period a small number of MSDs will be offered posts in the full-time force with the remainder expected to become Reserve Force members where their skills can also be applied.
The third and final part of the SANDF commitment to the NDP and its skills component is Project Koba-Tlala.
This project has the support of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and started as a skills provision opportunity to provide fresh produce and certain mechanical maintenance services to military bases and units. It not only provides work and income for Reserve Force soldiers when not called up but has broadened to involve their communities as well.
One example is a hydroponic home gardening project on the Cape Flats led by a women-driven co-operative and involving 40 households.
Speaking to this year’s NARYSEC intake at Thaba Nchu in Free State, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Thoko Didiza, called on youth to become change agents and contribute meaningfully to community development.
“South Africa will never change if young people just wait for government to provide. Go to the farm and start farming. Once you are done with the programme, we want to see you being able to farm. The programme is meant to kick-start your life so that you can change your lives”.
She told participants the NARYSEC programme aimed to provide them with knowledge, skills and values and a positive attitude.
On completion of their training, participants must become change agents contributing to “building vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities,” Didiza said.
When the military part of their training is done, the young men and women are enrolled at training colleges to obtain qualifications in their chosen career fields, paid by the Department. On completion, participants enter into various career paths in government departments, municipalities and the private sector while some pursue their own businesses.
In addition to discipline and patriotism, youth leadership development training teaches vocational skills including basic personal financial management, hygiene, firefighting and civic education.