Sun, Jul

NABCO is a wakeup call; not a cause to make merry

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It is understandable to see many appreciate the gesture, due to the harsh suffering many graduates are exposed to. But what cannot be acceptable at this point is how some seem to gloat and seem to implore others to lax

 In 1973, right on the back of his 1972 coup, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong was faced with the mass exodus of Ghanaian professionals; due to the harsh economic conditions in the country at the time. To salvage the situation, he introduced what has become the National Service Scheme (NSS) today. Then, it was simply a stop gap measure to tackle the personnel gap that the country faced.

Subsequently, we institutionalized the NSS, including a military service component to instill discipline, which we never implement by the way. Anyways, suffice it to say the NSS has served and continues to serve its role, and has actually experienced a 180 degree turnaround from its original purpose; of filling in for personnel shortfall to becoming the safety valve for containing thousands of students who graduate every year without jobs.

Forty five years after the original purpose of the NSS, Ghana is faced with a crisis of mammoth unemployment which goes beyond the containment of the National Service. To tackle this challenge, a host of youth employment programmes were instituted; ranging from NYEP, GYEEDA, YEA and now NEIP. It appears each leader at the dawn of the 21st century in Ghana; from J.A Kuffuor to Nana Addo, has attempted one form of initiative or the other, to stem the latent tide of mass graduate unemployment. The long and short of it is that, pending the outcome of NEIP, it can be fairly surmised that all these programmes have failed.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed keep increasing by the year, in their thousands. At this point, there could be no greater risk to the stability of the State than throngs of educated idle hands. This poses a great national security risk. I'm sure it was on the back of this assessment that the President was compelled to throw in the concept of the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO); as a sticking plaster to hold the mess in place.

It is understandable to see many appreciate the gesture, due to the harsh suffering many graduates are exposed to. But what cannot be acceptable at this point is how some seem to gloat and seem to implore others to lax, as though the NABCO were a panacea to the situation. I differ; for it is only a Band-Aid on the searing wound of the grave challenge of mass unemployment. What the President has done is to find an avenue to contain (some of, not all) the disgruntled graduates for three recurrent years. Until the scheme is designed to evolve into a self-perpetuating feed in System for permanent jobs, we certainly aren't on the road out of the woods yet.

On the back of this fact, I believe the conversation, though it must hover around the sustainability of the NABCO, must go deeper still. We must not go back to sleep after instituting a stop gap measure. There are thousands more who aren't graduates, who are also prowling our streets in search of jobs. Many more who are graduates will not be benefiting from this programme; so will thousands more end their three years of NABCO and still be confronted with joblessness if the scheme remains as it is. So the core of the debate must go to how we can ensure that the majority of Ghanaians of working age can gain access to permanent and decent employment, so as to contribute meaningfully to developing the country.

Too long enough, we have centered the talk on what short term measure each political party adopts to kick the can forward on the challenge of unemployment; to safeguard its political tenure. But the festering problem is still to be tackled head on, and government must take the bull by the horn, if it will be really helping the situation. Because, as the numbers increase year-on-year, quick fixes become incapable of gluing the threat of social chaos in place. I hope the current government will also not rely on the makeshift nature of NABCO to make its bed; for it is insufficient to rely on that alone to prevent that dreaded beast of mass agitation from rearing its ugly head.


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