Government Reintroduces National Youth Service Training Programme

Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Honourable Kirsty Coventry

Cabinet considered and approved the re-establishment of the National Youth Service Training Programme proposal which was presented by the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Honourable Kirsty Coventry.

It emerged in the post-Cabinet meeting today that the proposal came as a result of consultations between the Ministries of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation; and Defence and War Veterans Affairs.

Cabinet noted that National Youth Service is an important youth development programme that is crucial in nurturing young people into becoming responsible and resilient citizens with a clear sense of national identity and respect for national values. The programme is a key strategy for youth empowerment in national, regional, continental and international development guiding frameworks to which Zimbabwe is a member. The frameworks include the SADC Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan; the African Youth Charter of 2006; the World Programme of Action on Youth; and the United Nations Youth Strategy 2030.

The programme is designed to equip youths, who comprise persons between the ages of 18 and 35 years with patriotism, discipline, volunteerism, survival skills, hard work, loyalty, tolerance, resilience, determination and honesty. During training, the youths will be encouraged to participate in development projects and disaster response activities and thereby assist in enhancing national capacity to manage disasters.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (Number 20) Act provides that all institutions and agencies of Government at all levels must take reasonable measures, including affirmative action, to ensure that youths have access to appropriate education and training, that they participate in social, economic and other spheres of life, and that they are empowered and protected from harmful practices, exploitation and abuse.

Cabinet further agreed that under the revamped programme, Vocational Training Centres across all the provinces will focus on Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Skills Training. This will encompass enterprise awareness, opportunity identification, project financing, and basic farming. The Civil Protection Unit will place emphasis on disaster mitigation and management skills.

The roll-out of the National Youth Service Programme will involve community attachment of youths for work experience and service to various Government departments and local authorities. Graduates of the Programme will qualify for further training, assistance in starting businesses, and enrolment for careers in the police, the army, the airforce, nursing and teaching, among others.  The Programme will also take on board the disabled, and maintain gender balance and fair regional representation, with recruitment taking place through District Offices.

Cabinet further resolved that the National Youth Service Programme will be funded by Government, upon enactment of the necessary law. The Programme shall also be mandated to generate its own income through engagement in commercial activities. The youths will not pay fees but will be provided with uniforms, training kits and travel expenses, and will be accorded allowances as the economy improves.  More details on the implementation modalities of the policy will be provided as the programme unfolds.

At the height of the land reform programme, graduates from the National Youth Service Programme allegedly terrorised villagers by unleashing violence on supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change to force them to vote for the ruling party ZANU-PF.

The news has sent shivers down the spine of many people, particularly in rural areas, due to fear of a repetition of terror campaigns by the youths from the training centres as witnessed in the past.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende