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Opinions of Thursday, 27 July 2017

Columnist: Simon Aikins

Brutalizing National Service Personnel is not the way to go

The military in an attempt to maintain order assaulted the prospective personnel with canes The military in an attempt to maintain order assaulted the prospective personnel with canes

It is compulsory for all Ghanaian students who have completed accredited tertiary institutions under the law to do one-year National Service as stipulated by the National Service Scheme. Law abiding graduates after graduating move to wherever they are posted to carry out what is required of them, but some recalcitrant graduates refuse postings as a result of one reason or another known to them, thereby denying the nation their services.

Many national service personnel have attributed their inability to accept postings to certain places to the absence of good medical facilities, accommodation, ill-health, deplorable state of institutions, bad roads, bad communication systems, absence of potable drinking water and many others. As someone who did my national service in a rural community in the Eastern Region that lacks basic social amenities, I sometimes understand why people shy away from such areas which service personnel claim are not prestigious. That notwithstanding, I think their reasons are not watertight to be countenanced.

I was surprised when I saw a military officer and a police officer in a video shot by an amateur brutalizing service personnel at the University of Ghana, City Campus who had queued to be registered with sticks. They battered the service personnel to the extent that one lady was seen bleeding. I believe security officers are taught crowd control during their training sessions. Their crowd control on the day was bereft of professionalism and common sense. The service personnel were not a threat to security, so why the need to resort to the use of bullying to "tame" them? I wondered what they did to deserve such brute treatment. To put it mildly, it was barbaric. The approach leaves much to be desired. According to some of the personnel, they woke up as early as 4am just to register. That should tell you how patriotic they are. They are ready to serve their nation. I believe the unfortunate and unprofessional behavior of the security on duty that day would give others who had second thoughts about national service the grounds to refuse postings.

National Service by now should not be struggling with elementary issues like registration. In this era of ICT, at the click of a button, you should be able to register online from the comfort of your room. There is no need assembling at a central point to register. This will create chaos. I remember I had to go to Koforidua to register which was a waste of time and resources. The National Service Scheme should invest heavily in ICT to avert the repetition of this ugly incident in future.

Ample time must also be given to personnel to avoid all forced to register at a go. The time given this year is not enough. Some personnel said they had to push their way through to register to avoid losing their placements. This is because should they delay, their places would be taken over by others.

I was happy the National Service Scheme quickly released a statement to condemn the unprofessional attitude of the military and the police personnel who manhandled the service personnel and also profusely apologized to all who were affected. That is the way to go in order to protect their image which was drug in the mud by the security personnel. The assault should not rear its ugly head come next year. The National Service Scheme should put their house in order to extricate themselves from this avoidable shame.

Security bosses must as a matter of urgency brings to book the security personnel who misconducted themselves. Security personnel must be taught to be tolerant since they are dealing with humans. I believe those who were stationed to make sure law and order prevail were given a hard time by personnel, but as officers who have undergone training, assaulting the personnel was below the belt. They could have just appealed to their conscience and they would have complied.

Wrapping up, service personnel should make it a point not to refuse postings. National Service is to instill in them the spirit of nationalism and patriotism. They have to die for the land of their birth. There are so many benefits from doing national service. Who knows that could be an opportunity to know more about the country, understand the behaviours of others from other regions, affect the lives of others who urgently need help positively, acquire skills that will guide you in your professional career. So, they should not let this opportunity pass them by. Together, the notion that, national service is rather national suffering will be erazed.