Feature Article of Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Columnist: Wondoh, John

Why National Service Allowance should be Increased

The National Service Scheme (NSS) was instituted in Ghana in 1973 and has since brought about so much development in various sectors in the country. The area of education has benefited immensely from the service scheme. A high percentage of service personnel are usually posted to educational institutions every year to serve as temporal teachers. More than sixty percent of the current serving service personnel were posted to serve as teachers in schools across the country. This usually, to some extent, makes up for the lack of teachers in most schools. In the field of Agriculture, the National Service Scheme has also done quite plausible. The scheme’s maize farm in Ejura has been of great help to the nation. Quite a large number of senior high schools in the Ashanti region have benefit from supplies from the maize farm.

The National Service Scheme is not only of benefit to the nation as a whole, but it profits the serving personnel also. National service gives personnel the opportunity to gather skills and experience that might be relevant in their course of life. Some of these skills and experience acquired during the period of service include; a sense of responsibility, the ability to put the needs of others before one’s needs, exposure and confidence in fields that might not necessarily be one’s field, among others. These can sum up to make a very good work experience which could prove to be valuable in the job market.

National Service is crucial to both personal and national development. Therefore, it is imperative that any sort of impediment or impairment that negatively affects the growth and success of the scheme must attract serious attention and consideration, as this would have the propensity to negatively affect both the nation and the serving personnel.

It is essential that monetary issues that might cause displeasure in a workforce and thus negatively affect effectiveness and work output be dealt with promptly. The breakdown of the inevitable needs of the national service personnel that are to be met by the national service allowance is as follows; accommodation, transportation and feeding.

The cost of accommodation in Ghana for a single room ranges from five hundred Ghana cedis (GH? 500) to one thousand five hundred Ghana cedis (GH? 1500) for a year. That is about forty five Ghana cedis (GH? 45) to one hundred and thirty Ghana cedis (GH? 130) per month. The cost of acquiring accommodation facilities is dictated by the location one finds himself or herself in. Accommodation in urban areas is relatively more expensive than accommodation in rural areas. Also, there is the issue of transportation. In most cases, personnel might have to find a means of transportation from their place of abode to their work places daily. Food obviously is crucial for the sustenance of every individual and therefore must be given preference in the budget of the personnel.

The fact that the national service allowance must be increase is imperative and paramount in ensuring that the service scheme has a formidable workforce, enthusiastic in performing duties and patriotic to its nation. As it stands now, the allowance national service personnel receive at the end of every month is about two hundred and forty three Ghana cedis (GH? 243.00). This money is supposed to last the whole month, and in most occasions, personnel do not have alternative means of income.

Let us be realistic and not call a spade a big spoon. The service allowance can hardly meet the basic needs of the personnel or any person for that matter. The cost of living in Ghana is increasing and the prices of essential commodities are on the rise. The national service allowance must therefore be increase to match up with the increased cost of living.

Before completion, the graduand is expected to choose three regions which he or she wants to be posted to by the service secretariat. It is recommended but not mandatory that the service secretariat post the personnel to one of these regions. Therefore, one can be posted to any of the ten regions regardless of the regions chosen and the personnel’s place of residence.

Initial cost of moving to these regions is not catered for, at least, not at the beginning of the service. The issue of accommodation becomes very problematic when persons are required to leave their homes and areas of comfort to places they are not familiar with. Getting accommodation alone is not enough; necessities such as bed, mattress, cooking utensils, among others must be purchased as well. There is no initial financial support given to service personnel and this obviously makes life quite unbearable for them. It is therefore recommended that part of the money given to personnel at the end of the service to cater for transportation must be given to the personnel at the beginning of the service to effectively serve its purpose.

The period of service is also the period when personnel are suppose to nurture their skills, acquire practical knowledge and prepare for the job market. Getting employment has become so competitive that having just a certificate is not enough. It is therefore necessary that personnel seize any opportunity to improve themselves. This is very difficult to achieve because most opportunities that present themselves come at a cost; that is, payment is required. One way to improve one’s self is to seek for opportunities to acquire more knowledge through further studies after the period of service.

National service personnel who wish to upgrade themselves by means of further studies must strive to meet the requirements of the institution they wish to further their studies in. Most of these institutions require IELTS (International English Language Testing System), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) et cetera. Each of these tests does not cost less than four hundred Ghana cedis (GH? 400). Assuming a particular academic institution requires two of these tests, then the total amount required to take the tests would be about one thousand Ghana cedis (GH? 1000).

This amount however does not cover other expenses such as books, classes and transportation which have the ability to affect the output of the test. Considering the amount of money involved in preparing one’s self to meet the requirements of an institution for further studies, it becomes quite difficult for national service personnel to achieve this using the meagre allowance received monthly. Increment of the service allowance however might make this feasible for most personnel without alternative income sources.

As the motto of the scheme rightly puts it, national service personnel have a duty to serve the nation and therefore must do so with all zeal and willingness. However, in the situation where national service becomes national suffering, we are sure not to yield the results we expect. The importance of this scheme cannot be over emphasised; its contribution to the nation and its citizens is enormous. Patriotism and the zeal to work are all incubated in the personnel during their period of service. Let us uphold the core values of the scheme and work to ensure its success and continuity.

By John Wondoh johnwondoh@yahoo.com