You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2013 09 11Article 285273

Opinions of Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Columnist: Adzokpe, Jonathan

National service or national “suffering”

The time has come again for the Ghana National Service Secretariat to post graduates from the various tertiary campuses across the country to different places of work. I have had my fair share of National Service following my completion of a four-year BSc. in petroleum engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 2011.
Many a graduate, rather than seeing this gesture by the National Service Secretariat as a mean to serve their motherland, have christened it with many names – all of which depict the ills of the scheme. Indeed, there’s no institution without challenges. But it becomes unacceptable when these challenges keep recurring time and again.
One of the most prominent names many graduates have christened the National Service is National “Suffering”. I believe there’s an aorta of truth in the reason they’ve chosen to call it by that name. Whether or not I subscribe to that name is not an issue at this point. My main motivation for writing this article is to bring to the fore some of the recurring challenges that have long plagued the operations of the Secretariat, and how these have affected the activities of National Service personnel. Let’s take a look at some of them . . .
1. Postings that do not match one’s field of study
There are many back and forth arguments about why students are normally posted to various places of work to serve their nation. However, I have without number seen many graduates posted to places that have nothing to do with their fields of study.
How on earth can you post a BSc. Petroleum Engineering graduates for instance, to teach in a primary school? Are there not enough trained teachers to do that? What has petroleum engineering got to do with primary school teaching? Enough of the baseless arguments that you’re trying to make graduates versatile!
What is the primary motive behind the institution of the National Service Scheme? Is it not to give fresh graduates a feel of what the world of work holds for them, and to have a head-start in their chosen careers? So what reasoning ever underlies posting graduates to places which have nothing to offer them?
Most of us would rather not state where we did our national service on our CVs for future job applications. Why? Simply because they’re not in tandem with the likely jobs whose programmes we studied for.
Mr. Executive Director, if there are no available positions for the graduates to fit perfectly in, can you please let them go ahead to look for jobs just after school, without haunting them with such postings that hold no promise for their future career progression? Don’t waste their time in the name of National “Service”.

2. Outdated and non-operational website
I dare to think the National Service Secretariat lacks the will, or if you like, the technical competences to better man their website. The website is littered with very outdated information, and a lack of new ones. The most annoying part of it all is how it jams up when one is either registering or checking their posting.
I fully understand that due to the initial rush by graduates to register and know where they’ve been posted to, there could be likely incidence of website jam; but this has been the norm for far too long. Can’t you just post a competent computer science graduate to the Secretariat every year whose main responsibility will be to better manage your website, and update it with new and more relevant information?
3. The characteristic long queues for “allowances”
This brings to mind my personal experiences during my National Service as a Teaching Assistant in KNUST in 2011/2012. It was as though we were begging for our allowances. The gentleman who was assigned to our campus to sign our allowance card behaved like a “boss” over his subordinates.
We are in no way begging for our allowance. Do you know what it takes to work for a whole month, sometimes on empty stomach, just to take a meager allowance and then there sits someone commanding like a soldier? Why must we join queues amidst sweating just for an amount that doesn’t even suffice most graduates?
It is the right of every national service personnel to be paid what they are due. It is not a favour you’re doing them. They might as well go and work for private enterprises where they will be better paid than you do.
On the issue of queue Mr. Executive Director, when are you going to make your payments directly into graduates’ bank accounts? What is the essence of providing your outfit with our bank account details, and yet still have to join a long queue? I know you have made arguments in this respect; that you want to avoid paying into ghost accounts. What a fantastic argument to put forth!
To tell you a truth however, it is not our responsibility to help you fight any ghost names in the system. If you have your checks and balances in place, this argument will be non-existent. The rest of the world is far ahead of us Mr. Director. We need to learn! The days for excuses are over!
4. Meager allowances
Come to think of it, you pay a graduate under GHC 250.00 a month! For God’s sake this amount is what someone can spend just for lunch or even more. Do you really know the economic condition in Ghana? Have you recently checked the prices of food, transport and other services following the hike in fuel prices? Let’s do a simple mathematics here.
If it costs me about GHC 5.00 a day to feed, that makes about GHC 150.00 a month. I pay about GHC 35.00 for rent – that is even on the low side, I spend about GHC 60 to and from my service station, these add up to about GHC 245.00 a month. Bills and other miscellaneous costs have not been covered. Do you expect the fresh graduate, who is yet to make any money to go borrow and start off in the debt cycle?
And if you don’t know, most of our parents stop giving us pocket money once we’re out of school; thus the issue of our parents’ or guardians’ support is out of the equation.
Mr. Executive Director, I rest my case, because I can go on and on without end. I am watching closely. I will keep barking like a loose dog until you fix these mishaps. Until then, I wish you well in the subsequent postings.