When President Kenyatta was faced with bursting low skilled youths on the streets, the voice inside must have whispered “you cannot wait for this to escape you to deal with it”. Just like Kenyatta 1 he decided youths must be organized and be given some form of skills.
Kenyatta 1 sought guidance from Dr. Geoffrey William Griffin (1933-2005) in 1964. Formal education penetration within the black Kenyan community was low very hence some form of skill development mechanism had to sprout through the National youth Service.
The president considered the establishment of the NYS as crucial, to produce human resource that was highly disciplined. In other words, the aim of establishing the NYS was majorly to get a pool of organized and disciplined human resource for national development programs who would later be absorbed into the job market.
Kenyatta 2 was faced with judder of agitated jobless youths that he sought refuge in the memory of his father. NYS was re-branded and launched as an entity under the National youth Service Act (revised 2012).
Unlike in the 1980’s where university students were required to go through the NYS training before completing their university education and be trained on matters of nation building and patriotism, Kenyatta 2 must have felt those in the universities are not as pressing as those on the streets with no or low skills. The president decided to go in all guns blazing. He asked parliament to allocate funds to achieve maximum impact. This must have been important to him.
What did not happen at this moment was, probably no one bothered to advise the president that this program needed to fit current needs and realities. Unlike back in the day, the number of youths eligible for the program has risen so much that it could not accommodate all interested.
The aim of the service remained the same, ‘train young citizens to serve the nation, As well as employ its members in tasks of national importance and otherwise in the service of the nation.’ This clearly is not practical when the underlying issue is not tasks of national importance and patriotism.
The service ended up with so much funds but with 1964 mindset. The mindset of deploying youths on the streets on national days for crowd control. This is not only out of touch but showed blurry in the intended output.
The service got involved in all sorts of things, from borehole drilling, border fence building, response to collapsed buildings to digging water pans and manning Kenyatta national hospital and ferrying passengers within the city. Of course on the surface there is nothing wrong with this interventions but when the same government is spending billions through other government agencies to achieve the same, then you realize this is not a well thought out program.
The management in NYS and the ministry of devolution must have interpreted this to mean the President is not so keen after all. Once in a while they will showcase what the service is doing and the rest of time they leave it to the right guided agencies with capacity to do their business read bore holes- water and irrigation, collapsed building –County government wrestling alongside sonko rescue team, law and order during public barazas – police and so on and so forth.
The dilemma was what to do with all this money exponentially growing over time. The upper echelon of the ministry profusely salivated. Ideas were borne and theft was executed with supply or lack of it of all sort of things. This went on unabated and the criminals grew bolder and bolder as far shocking the president.
I want to comfort the president that all is not lost. We can achieve his vision and deliver the youths. The target youths being the ones with little or no skills at all.
National youth service mandate must be reviewed and narrowed down to providing low or no skilled youths with the requisite basic skills and have them, absorbed in the labor market within the country and outside. It’s not practical to engage the youths forever by government.
Government should consider exporting all this labor. The youths will not only have jobs but will support the economy through remittances back to Kenya and reduce the national security fear from government.
Government can easily achieve this by moving the NYS to the ministry of labor and mandate them within their programs.
We have approx. 250,000 kenyans working in the Arab countries providing low skill labor and earning a living. The ministry can embark on increasing this number to 1 Million in the next couple of years. Many other countries have their citizens in the gulf countries stretching to several millions. The labor ministry must develop diplomatic understanding with these countries and have them absorbed the foreign labor demand.
In the mean time the agencies under the labor ministry should train these youths on basic Middle East culture and language for soft landing in their jobs.
This can have better impact on the presidents agenda than crowd control and scandals every financial year.