National service is a voluntary program design by most countries to get its nationals to service the country for a year. In Ghana, every student who graduates from any accredited tertiary institution is required under law to do a one-year national service to the country. The National Service Secretariat (NSS) is the Government of Ghana agency mandated to formulate policies and structures for national service. More so, Nigeria requires university students to spend a year in a service program before graduating (NYSC). As with Malaysian case, the object was largely to help foster national unity: The program started in the aftermath of the Nigerian civil war, the Biafra War, in the 1970s. To that end, participants are posted in areas far from their homes and encouraged to learn the local culture and unite with them.
This to some extent implies that everyone in a state is to serve the country voluntarily for a year and after which, be on the own to do what is deem appropriate. During service time, many students are posted both near and far away places, sometimes you are posted to a near and desire place when you get recommended by a company. Aside that forget it, you will be posted very far and to a field you might not be interested making it vapid for you to do the service. Even most times, some service personnel do have no idea about the place where they are posted to yet have to manage. Most of the students are sent to places they have never been to or have relatives in yet they just have to manage it. All these come with lots of consequences. Thus, there is no proper evaluation on the part of the national service secretariat to find out if indeed the service person is actually doing the service and on the part of the service person, he or she has to rent, feed and clothe the self which comes with much burden. All these consequences make lots of service personnel very frustrated and broke after the service.
The National Service Scheme started in Ghana in 1973 and now operates under Act 426 (of 1980). The objectives of the Scheme are to:
- Encourage the spirit of national service among ALL segments of Ghanaian society in the effort of nation-building through active participation.
- Undertake projects designed to combat hunger, illiteracy, disease, and unemployment in Ghana.
- Help provide essential services and amenities, particularly in towns and villages of the rural areas of Ghana.
- Develop skilled manpower through practical training.
- Promote national unity and strengthen the bonds of common citizenship among Ghanaians.
The Act mandates the Scheme to mobilize and deploy "any person to whom the Scheme applies to be engaged, full time, in any of the following fields": Agriculture, Co-operatives, Education, Health, Local Government, Military, Rural Development, including surveying, physical planning, civil engineering and rural industries, Youth programs, and any other field that the Board may prescribe from time to time.
Any such person shall comply with the directions of the Board. With all these directions, it is good every fresh graduate reading this piece take note of the following important advice very well since, after the service, the hope for national employment is not warranted. The National Service is just the thin line between school and unemployment, peculiarly in Ghana. By the end of the service, you would have accumulated a total amount of GH¢6,708 in your account given that each month brings GH¢559. Use this money wisely.
_These are a few of the many decisions to take in the service year._
1. Don't rent a house or room. Take advantage of the free bungalows, hostel, etc. where available. If you have to rent, form a partner group of two/three members and rent together. Spending just one year with a roommate won't kill you, Save Money! And use it for your own business after the service. Most of you might have families but sometimes, it is good to be stingy than being generous as Niccolo Machiavelli said to the Prince. Some relative though the money is little, they would want to share it with you to the very last pesewa and when you finish service without a job and ask for anything from them they begin to see you as a useless graduate. Think twice, think wise.
2. Cut down dressing cost. Don't spend too much on dresses just to appear as "expensive" as the permanent staff. You will waste money. Two black pencil-skirts/trousers, two sea-blue long sleeve shirts, one flying tie and one African-print shirt (for Fridays) is enough for the service year. Be simple but presentable! Some service persons are careless, the dress even more expensive stuffs than the permanent workers and makes the company management feel afraid to even maintain them after the service because they feel they do not have such allowance for his or her change of clothes. It is good to be decent and clean but be cool and medium wai, Ghc559 can save your future small.
3. Be the first to always report to work and the last to leave. If the official time of reporting is 8.00am, try to be there always within 7.30am-7.45am each day. Report and leave 20-30mins earlier or later (for closing) than usual time. Some of the service personnel first or second impression always give the company the clue or hint as to whether they should maintain them or not after the service, this is what is popularly known as “demand characteristic of the actionist”. Some think it is not their father’s work and Ghc559 is too small for them to be wasting their time, my guy, take it seriously and do it to the very best of your ability because success depends on hard-work and connections.
4. Create more links and contacts for yourself. The value of your certificate "ends" after service, it's your "connections" that will take you places. Smile more, attend programs regularly, send good morning, birthday, and etc. messages to all. In fact, don't be "anti-so". The more links you create after the service will determine the frequency of your employment after the national service. Do you know why most people after the service are not maintained or employed? it is from their demand characteristics. The company’s management doesn’t even know they worked with them when met somewhere after the service and this implies that the service person services were not acknowledged or felt by the company. therefore, you need to work hard and work proper.
5. If your qualification is a Diploma or HND, focus on pursuing a degree programme immediately after the service. Ask around for a "good" degree course and pursue it. The value of Diploma and HND is fading, look sharp and upgrade quickly and if yours is a degree, you can pursue a masters degree, a professional programme, a top-up course, look for a job, and start a business. Think critically about what you wish to do after service. That will greatly inform your spending culture. Most finish service and sit for years without a job yet keep blaming the state for their own unemployment forgetting that we are in the information world and machines are taking all over the jobs meant for humans. We don’t even have the skills to meet the corporate work force yet, we aren’t making any efforts to upgrade ourselves. We need to be very current and informative.
6. The ladies, be more open. You can get your life partner in this service year. Learn to carefully accept love proposals, if you are not seriously attached already and not everybody at your place of posting will like you. Accept that. Some will hate you with as weak reasons as your style of talking, dressing, walking, etc. Don't mind them, just do your job. You are just there for one year, leave a mark in any positive way you can.
7. Learn to take God more seriously. "... Time and chance happen to them all" (Eccl 9:11). You can make excellent use of your "time", but for "chance/luck" to come your way, it takes a Divine Hand. Pray more and attend programs, prayer meetings, and youth fellowships regularly.
I always stand for the interest of the youth and together we can effect the change we always desire. Go out there and make your parent proud, Ghana proud, your Institution proud and yourself proud. National service is not a burden on you but a challenge for you to have the first-hand experience with the corporate world and an opportunity to build for yourself the connections you need for your growth. Act responsibly and serve your country thus is patriotism. Moreover, congratulations to all of you fresh graduates on making it this far!
Author; Issah Musah Aziba
Political Scientist, KNUST Graduate, Kumasi.
[email protected] or Whatsapp; 0501543643