Members of the Sierra Leone Parliament have enacted the National Youth Service Act, 2016 which according to promoters of the bill would enable youth serve the country after graduation from tertiary institutions.
Presenting the bill for discussion, Minister of Youths, Hon. Alimamy A. Kamara said the purpose of the bill was to establish a national youth service scheme geared towards training grandaunts to serve the nation in a bid to address the unemployment rate in the country.
He said the scheme shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and capable of acquiring, holding and disposing of property, be it moveable or immoveable and to sue and be sued in its corporate name, subject to the Act.
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In his contribution, Hon. Aaron Aruna Koroma said the Youth Service Act should have been enacted in 2002 or 2003 when the war ended, adding that it had already been established in Nigeria and other countries.
He said the bill could help improve agriculture, which is key to the development of the country, adding that introducing entrepreneurship in agriculture would help increase the country’s GDP.
“It will also address the issue of energy and educational disadvantage as grandaunts will be sent to different communities. Schools in some remote villages do not have qualified teachers but with such initiative, better and quality education will be attained as it will help motivate the young ones to do more. It will shape careers of the school going children,” he said.
Hon. Koroma urged community members to take advantage of the Act as grandaunts would be sent to their communities, they should be well taken care of and provided with free accommodation and feeding.
“The burden should not only be left with government alone in supporting these grandaunts, community people should also take part in accomplishing these goals. I urge young people to also take advantage of the opportunity given to them,” he urged.
He called on donor agencies to support the scheme as government alone would not at all times have funds to support the scheme.
Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Youth, Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally said the national youth service scheme in Sierra Leone has long been overdue and observed that the issue of unemployment poses a serious challenge to development.
“Most of the young people have graduated but are yet to be employed and a scheme like this will be of benefit to them,” he said.
“Africans should look to Tanzania and Nigeria on the issue of youth service as they empowered most of their youths nationwide. The opportunity to grow and develop will be a good idea should this parliament give them the opportunity. A lot of institutions have been created to support youth empowerment, of which were the Sierra Leone youth empowerment, youth coalition, non-state actors, but all of them failed in achieving such goal. Restless Development also came but even though they faced lot of challenges, they tried to help a few graduants in the country,” he said.
He said the passage of the bill would help youth in not only gaining employment but other benefits as well, adding that the scheme would help promote the spread of local ethnic languages across the country.