In 2011, *Seth Adzei Appau completed his four-year programme in Engineering at the University of Ghana, Legon. He was ecstatic! It had been a roller-coaster period in his life. And it had ended on a sound note. He was pretty sure of graduating with a respectable class. His mother was relieved that he had finished; the programme had been as financially demanding to her as it was physically draining to her son. She was eternally grateful to God for seeing his only son through something that seemed to sap his youth and handsomeness. Somewhere in Accra, they celebrated.
This celebratory mood was short-lived. When the National Service Scheme released the postings , his beloved son, with whom she had built an uncommon bond, was posted to the Upper East Region. He was not posted to the capital, but to an economic backwater, to teach in a deprived school in a deprived district under the supervision of a deprived headmaster. All of a sudden, mother and son seemed to lose their moral scruples. They were all too willing to bribe someone, anyone to change his station to Accra. But they were cash-strapped. Her mother worked fast and furious. And through her complex connections in the church, she raised not only the bribe but the person through whom to channel the bribe to the appropriate person. She did it in two days!
Sadly, it was to no avail because the bribe did not get to the right person! Suffice it to say, his son got posted to the doomed place where his services were needed.
Seth would later admit that his national service period was his most fulfilling time in life: a period that helped him discover whom he really was; a period that revealed to him the harsh reality of rural Ghana; and most importantly, a period that helped him land his dream career…
The disconcerting truth about many of Ghana’s national service persons is that they prefer to be posted to places where their services are not needed, but which guarantees their comfort and their status as the “Elect of Ghana’s educated.”
From the outset, students position themselves strategically in order to jostle for plum national service postings: student politicians- usually the greatest beneficiaries- concretise their connections with ‘regular’ politicians; students with relatives in high places remind them of their forthcoming national service; others reserve huge sums to pay whomever can influence the system. The upright and genuine students are usually the losers. This ‘cursed group’ get posted to the remotest parts of Ghana or get assigned to do demeaning jobs. Predictably, those who truly serve as national service persons are most often in the minority. In the end, a self-serving façade to get the national service certificate takes place brazenly.
Now, let’s not mince words about this. If you influence the system so that you get posted to where you know your services are not really needed but which will guarantee your comfort, you are corrupt and morally bankrupt. And you would ,probably, have shot yourself in the foot because you won’t get hired there. Of course, your ilk will continue to manipulate the system to replace you! And you would likely leave emptier than you went there because you would be reduced to a ‘spectator’. And as for those who dodge national service altogether, the least said about them the better.
National service should be a time of sacrifice, a time when you suffer some discomfiture for the betterment of Ghana, a time you bring your patriotism and godliness to bare. It should be a period when we resolve to right the wrongs of our society through personal example. National service should be a time we truly serve others and let our humanity and education shine bright. It should be the watershed that demonstrates our love for the country.
And no country develops without the sacrifice of the people. If we justify our own corrupt practices by citing the corruption of others, we would continue to sink the ship of the country and ultimately, we shall collectively drown in the sea of corruption.
National Service is at the corner. Make a decision to serve. Thank you.
And God bless our homeland, Ghana.
*Fictitious name for the purposes of this article.