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Voluntary National service programme to be introduced
26 August 2003

Accra: A national service volunteer programme under the National Service Scheme is currently being explored by government to help provide opportunity for Ghanaians to reinforce their spirit of patriotism and to render services to needy communities.

The volunteer programme, to be run on pilot basis in the Upper East Region with about 80 volunteers, who would be teaching in secondary schools, would later be expanded to cover the whole country by next year.

This is to provide the capacity for the scheme to embark on more empowering and civic participation programmes to effectively support rural communities, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports announced this on Tuesday.

He was speaking at the opening of the first Africa Regional Conference of the International Association for National Youth Service (IANYS) being attended by over 30 participants from South Africa, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana and members of the diplomatic missions in Accra.

Mr Baah-Wiredu expressed the government's appreciation to service personnel for their contribution to nation building, which surpassed the cost of running the programme.

"The service personnel have integrated very well with societies they had previously held misconceptions about. Their attitudes have progressively changed positively and have greatly contributed to the peace and stability of this country as a result of their interactions and relationships with different cultures and ethnic groupings during times of community service".

Mr Baah-Wiredu said communities continue to value and respect such sacrifices, which also afford the personnel and volunteers the experience, which propel them for future professions or trade. He charged the participants at the conference to deliberate and plan on how to assist in the recovery of student loans to sustain it; discuss the HIV/AIDS pandemic plaguing Africa and post service employment and the setting up of an education financial bank to reduce pressure on teaching and non-teaching staff and students.

The five-day conference on the theme: "National Youth Service; A Tool for National Development" being hosted by the National Service Scheme (NSS) in Ghana is being held ahead of the Seventh Global Conference of IANYS also to be hosted in Ghana in August next year.

It would enable participants to acquire the most up-to-date information on youth service, share ideas and exchange strategies for development, build networks to communicate and focus on the new challenges for national youth service in the 21st century.

Mr Boniface Gambila, Director of NSS, said the conference would review the impact of national youth service (NYS) in African countries, national strategic plans for enhancement of the service and volunteerism in individual nations, involving NYS in the development efforts of the African nations through the Africa Union (AU) and new perspectives of NYS in environment, water, sanitation and health.

Mr Peter Kpordugbe, Africa Regional Director of IANYS, said the 30 years of operating the service scheme in Ghana had not been "smooth sailing".

He said: "Our programmes have limped along, remodelling and down sizing to fit shoestring budgets and never able to contemplate a full scale implementation of their mandates.

"It appears that the level of acceptance of NYS within modern Nation State today is related to a more detailed analysis of the relevance managed youth service organization and the dissemination of such analysis as widely as practicable."

Mr Kpordugbe said the conference would make recommendations to various governments.