National Service is the demand made by the country on its young people and their response in fulfilling their duty in building the nation.
“Young people need be trained to understand and consider history of their country, and how they relate to this history to project their future and understand their position in transforming their country,” Dr Julius Nyerere the founding father of Tanzania once said.
According to IMF by 2040 two-three billion people will be moving into higher and middle income bracket in emerging economies.
Africa will be Shs 1.4 billion in 2030 and Shs 2.5bn in 2050.This implies someone must sit and scratch his head to ensure that our young people position themselves to be part of this transformation.
Uganda has one of the largest youth populations in the world, with 77% of population believed to be under the age of 25years old.
This implies that 13% of our population must carry the burden of preparing the colossus youth population for the better future.
In a world which is changing dramatically at a very drastic speed parents and leaders are confronted with the question of how to prepare today’s young people to be part of tomorrow’s adult life both for themselves and their country.
All over the world leaders through their government have the duty to shape their people’s ideological and philosophical direction and instigate the young people to actualise their potential.
The role of the youth in the socio-political and the economic transformation of any given country cannot be doubted but if only they are well prepared with right mindset.
Having the biggest youth population ideally would be a God given blessing for the country, a valuable resource the country would be proud of because this means we have the most energetic and productive force that would drive social economic transformation with ease.
Unfortunately this seem to be the contrary for our case, taking note from experiences of recent election period, this age category is largely characterised by resentments, animosity and outright apathy of all Government dealings.
Central to this effect is the issue of negative mindset attributed to a number of factors some rooted in our history and others sub-consciously inculcated by the environmental trends they are exposed to.
The best the leadership can do to reserve this trend is to prepare and ensure total mindset transformation by inculcating positive beliefs, thoughts, values and attitudes that will breed a crop of people who look at individual and national prosperity as a common objective.
Mindset transformation must be deliberate, planned and aimed at total change of people’s character, way of thinking and positive attitudes and the best driver for this is the National Youth Service program.
The National Youth Service is supposed to develop self-motivated and patriotic citizens with affection, pride and concern for their country, able to defend and uphold their country’s shared values.
A citizenry that is thoughtful, active, productive, tolerant, resourceful, responsible, loyal and resilient.
The framers of our Constitution were foresighted, and the importance of patriotism and loyalty to our motherland could not be emphasized the more.
Highlighted in XXIX of National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy and emphasized in Article 17 among the duties of citizen, they envisaged a loyal and patriotic citizenry.
Uganda’s renaissance on the road to achieve Vision 2040 cannot be realised if we do not emphasise adequate investment in the development of a resourceful work force which is mainly composed of the youth in Uganda.
Thank God the National Development plan is giving due consideration to the issue of mindset change, with a whole program of mindset change and community mobilisation.
It is critical that government provides the youth with a clear ideological direction to develop a whole citizen constructed with responsibility and is productive.
The government efforts to address mindset issue has been unrelenting.
The National Patriotism programme was established in 2009 under the Office of the President with the mandate to develop and coordinate patriotism programs in the country among students of post primary and higher institutions of learning.
The impact has been very tremendous among students, but the programme is limited by the mandate to reach out to all youth of Uganda mainly those out of schools
Countries have different ideological frameworks based on their historical backgrounds, unique problems, and shared values concept normally intended to anchor a progressive attitude, positive mindset and national values.
The United States have entities like Civilian Conservation Corps, Peace Corps, and Volunteer in Service to America, AmeriCorps,United Kingdom has Voluntary Service Overseas and Millennium Volunteers. Canada has Canada World Youth etc. Israel has Sherut Ezrachi-Le’umi or National Civic Service which began as an alternative to the mandatory Israeli Defense Force.
In Africa, countries like Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa have very vibrant youth service program fully embedded in their national youth policies.
Through the NYS young people at a very early age are taught to develop a sense of responsibility, obeying the law, paying taxes, protecting public property joining the security services, and promoting a common good for all.
Once this is developed as a culture people can make prudent decisions, and act coherently.
As we celebrate 59 Years of Independence, the National Youth Service program can drive national mindset transformation to have Ugandans who are able to communicate and listen to each other.
We need Ugandans who are ready to protect their environment, Ugandans who are able to care for their health and that of others, Ugandans who are law abiding, Ugandans who are security conscious and can settle conflicts peacefully and Ugandans who are able to support themselves and their families.