National Service coat cut to available cloth

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Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says voluntary national service for the youth will be limited to a period of six months or a year and will focus on young people aged 18 to 24. They will be paid a stipend – not a salary – during their time of service,perhaps funded by Sector Education Training Authorities, because the defence department cannot afford the expense.   

Sisulu yesterday said given the fact that some five million young South Africans did not have work, the length of service would have to be relatively short. “We are hoping it will be restricted to one year. With up to five million young people unemployed we cannot prolong it. Maybe six months.”

The minister announced the scheme in her budget vote in May. She has said the programme “is expected to help the youth to contribute to national interest, both personally and professionally. The programme should, of necessity, cover a number of aspects not least the provision of technical life skills, including entrepreneurial skills. Emphasis will be placed on helping the youth to make sound career choices and enhance those skills required to make them undeniable assets to a broad range of employers.”

Sisulu yesterday added a number of other government departments and entities were keen on the idea, including the Human Sciences Research Council and the departments of education, co-operative governance, land reform and rural development. “We have put in place two task teams that will report to me and I will report to Cabinet,” she told reporters in Cape Town. “We have eminent scholars discussing a policy framework on one of the teams”, she added according to the South African Press Association. The second team is dealing with the technical and administrative aspects of introducing national service.

More detail could emerge in September when up to 500 youth leaders from various political parties and civil society are set to undergo a two-week taste of national service at the Naval Gymnasium at SAS Saldanha, the sea service’s basic training depot.



Pic: Navy recruits undergoing training at SAS Saldanha, March 2010.