Kaieteur News – The APNU+AFC had plans for the re-introduction of National Service. The launch of the National Cadet Corps was intended to pave the way for the full return, eventually, of national service.
When it was first introduced to Guyana, the Guyana National Service had little to do with national development. It was intended to forcibly indoctrinate Guyanese in socialist values. The stated aim of National Service included ensuring “that all Guyanese within the formal training system [education] are aware of the new values of society and understand the relationship between the new society and themselves.”
National Service was part of an experiment to militarise the society. One of its objectives was “to provide training in para-military and calisthenics so as to prepare the people for national defence.”
Members of the public were however fed the usual diet of nationalist sentiments. They were sold the idea that National Service was a part of the national development process. This was all part of the brainwashing.
In order to justify this massive failed experiment which sucked the energies out of the society and burdened the government with a bill that it could not afford, National Service was advertised as helping to address the situation of unemployed youths, by providing them with an outlet to learn skills, contribute to national development and create the new Guyana.
That new Guyana was never created. That new Guyana was an experiment that went askew. Whatever skills National Service provided to the unskilled could have been had much cheaper and more efficiently through alternative skills-development schemes. No one needs National Service to provide skills.
The PPP has been blamed for the demise of National Service. There are still many who are not willing to accept that Burnham and company did not know what they were doing when they introduced this scheme, had no clue about how to re-orient the society towards socialist values and in the end were prepared to use National Service as a means of social control.
The PPP did not kill National Service. National Service was on its deathbed when the PPP came to power. National Service died of financial starvation because during the Hoyte administration there was simply no money to keep the camps going. Rather than contributing to national revenue, National Service became a liability. It was downscaled and downsized so that by the time the PNC exited power, National Service was a skeleton of its former self.
The PPP merely administered the final rites. National Service went into decline under Desmond Hoyte, but he must not be blamed because it was National Service itself, which brought about its own demise. It had become an unproductive and unaffordable burden to the state.
We live in different times. National Service can no longer be about donning a uniform, joining a platoon of green uniformed groups, heading to an interior location to live in barracks, plant cotton peas, eat subsistence meals, and learn how to march and use a weapon.
If that is the price that one has to pay to impart skills to the unskilled, then Guyana is never going to develop. There are better ways to achieving the same objective.
What exactly are these skills that National Service turned out? And why could other ways not be found to teach the unemployed these same skills without placing them in a paramilitary organisation? Since when does skill training require persons to have to be forced into a form of servitude? Or exposing our women to being raped!
There is a need for a new type of National Service but not in the form, which we had. The best National Service is for people to become productive citizens.
A skilled citizen, productive and earning, will develop the economy of Guyana. When someone contributes to productive activities and when those activities contribute rather than act as a drain on national resources that is a better form of National Service because the productive citizen is contributing to the expansion of the economy.
Guyanese must serve themselves first by becoming skilled and proficient. They must make something of their lives and in so doing contribute to nation building.
The old model of National Service that we practiced will not return. Those days are gone forever.
The APNU+AFC were attempting to restore a disguised National Service through the National Cadet Corps. But the youths of Guyana were never going to be led astray like previous generations. The youths had different priorities. They were not interested in reintroduction of National Service.
University students are now paying for their education – not paying much, but still paying. No one is going to convince them that because they received a subsidised education, they have to give back something to the state.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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