Sisulu talks up Youth Service

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South Africa’s previously-announced National Youth Service will promote national unity, citizenship education, life and vocational skills to the country’s youth.

Announcing her decision to provide leadership for the development of a National Youth Service (NYS) in her Department of Defence Budget Vote in parliament last Friday, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said that the NYS would be “a legally constituted and regulated non-militaristic youth development service which will collaborate and cooperate with all public and private institutions committed to youth skills and competences development.”
“I have also mandated the SANDF, primarily because of its national footprint, logistical and communication capabilities, to develop administrative capability to ensure the effective implementation of the National Youth Service,” said Sisulu.

She continued that the proposed NYS is intended to play a key role in dealing with the consequences of youth unemployment and to the national goal of poverty eradication. “The service will not offer training for military engagement,” she explained, “but will draw on the potential of military training to promote discipline, self-esteem, confidence and a sense of belonging to the national community.”

Government has been considering the idea of a Youth Service for some time and is using the Tanzanian model as a basis. According to Sisulu, benefits of the NYS in Tanzania include the development of national pride, discipline, patriotism and providing the youth with an opportunity to grow.
“It is a continuation of free education,” Sisulu told defenceWeb, “for the Tanzanians, it is compulsory for all school leavers.” However, the South African program will be voluntary. Sisulu clarified that although the NYS was non-military, it would involve those skills that are necessary should the individual want to continue in the military.
“It concentrates on discipline, basics like language, science, all of those things that basically build the human being into a better productive unit of society,” she continued, “geography, all these things is done in the first year. It’s not military, but the drill is there.”

Thereafter, the individual can choose to go into the military. The current Military Skills Development System (MSDS) will no longer be of two years duration, but will be reduced to one year as a year had already been spend in the NYS.

In the Tanzanian model, Sisulu says, “the ones that opt out go for what is normally provided for in technical colleges. They even have their own farms and industries. So they train them in the various skills that the youth might be interested in. Hotel management, facilities, agriculture, carpentry, everything.”

Clarifying how she sees the South African model is instituted, Sisiulu noted that in Tanzania, an individual cannot be employed in the civil service without having attended the NYS. Although the service will be voluntary, she foresees the situation where, for example, the Defence Force, Police, Correctional Services and Home Affairs will only recruit from those who have completed their one year of NYS.

Sisula explained that the various Government departments had different recruitment criteria which may have an impact on service delivery and corruption.
“We think we can bring down these levels of unacceptable behaviour in critical departments by making sure that they (the Government departments) sign a compact with us … to say they will recruit from us,” continued Sisulu.
“So that is what makes it compulsory,” Sisulu notes, “We will start in the security sector. So, if we take in 20 000 next year, then we can be quite certain that the following year these will be recruited into the police, into home affairs, into correctional services. So we will not be retaining the 20 000 into the military, but we will be training them so that we are learning a common sense of values.”
“So, if the police are not recruiting outside this,” she adds, “there is some guarantee, because here we would have built a kind of model South African, who knows what the values of this country are.”

Each department that is party to the agreement will indicate the number of new recruits that is required, thus determining the size of the NYS intake. The NYS will be integrated in the Defence Force as a separate service on the same level as the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc. “It will be another service, led by a two or three star general, depending what the determination will be,” said Sisulu.

While much of this concept of the National Youth Service is borrowed from the Tanzanian model, many other countries in Africa have either implemented or are investigating starting a similar service. Sisulu made much reference to the Tanzanian model, but it appears that the Tanzanian National Youth Service has not been operating effectively for some time and that last year the government announced that they were finalizing the processes of reviving their National Youth Service.

Writing in The Guradian newspaper last year, Tanzanian Masozi David Nyirenda, stated that in the Seychelles, the National Youth Service was formerly compulsory and included traditional educational curriculum, political education and paramilitary training. He noted that this program was heavily criticized by the Seychellois opposition on the grounds that it allegedly indoctrinated young adults with the ruling Seychelles People’s Progressive Front’s socialist ideology.

It is clear that instituting a National Youth Service in South Africa could easily result in the consumption of a lot of resources with very little social and economic returns, not to mention the ever present menace of political allegiances, corruption and nepotism that seems to be so common within the State apparatus.

Nyirenda notes that in the rejuvenation of the Tanzania service, “on the management of camps and production activities, there is a need to establish effective systems for controlling misuse of resources and abuse of power in order to ensure that the programme does not end up as previously was. This goes with ensuring that the training programmes in the camps are well designed, structured and delivered to ensure the target groups obtain necessary skills while the programme objectives are met, without compromising their human rights.”

This could equally be said of the South African system.