Conscription is coming whether we like it or not, we have seen mutterings by academics and even by Lindiwe Sisulu. But what shape or form will this take? In order to work it must not be military but should have certain militarised characteristics in the form of discipline that needs to be well planned, governed and thought out.
We look at the world today and youth unemployment is just growing and growing and there seems little in the way of solutions to fix this challenge globally. In South Africa it is partly due to past injustices, lack of education and dare I say, even laziness or a better word to use perhaps would be impatience.
Past injustices would take generations to sort out, education the same. Now if we look at the USA, Europe and the UK, the children there for the most part do not have the same history of injustice within their borders yet their youth are having the same challenges in finding work. Young adults with two degrees and no job experience cannot find work. So now let’s say if by some miracle we in South Africa find ourselves in a a position where past injustice and education is no longer the issue. Will our young adults find themselves in the same boat as their counterparts in the developed world, well educated, no experience and little chance in finding work?
This brings me to another point. We live in an instant gratification society with a reset button. Has this manifested as impatience in our youth? In the past a young person would follow in their families’ footsteps and start at the bottom, the very bottom of the ladder and it would take many years before one is a manager and a lifetime of work to get to the very top. What we see today is that because they are educated they expect to be put in somewhere in the middle of the ladder. I may be generalising and understand that not all youth may be the same.
This impatience of the youth could be seen when they watch television and see their favourite pop star driving in super cars, wearing designer outfits and sipping champagne off bellies of girls. The youth want it and they want it now and what they are not always realising is that at the end of the day it is not those bling things that define oneself. Sadly the media has indoctrinated our young minds into believing that success is based on what luxury items one has.
Social media and communications as we have seen has shaped our world in ways that have flustered and toppled many governments all over the globe. What this has shown is that the youth need something and is lacking something and are therefore growing increasingly impatient. They need to have common beliefs, they need to feel a sense of ubuntu , they need that bond that unites them. The problem is that it is manifesting in sensationalist behaviour. If we look at “Occupy Wall Street” and subsequent occupiers they did not have a coherent statement. In the UK we saw the riots. We see this within our own country. They want and think just by getting “it”, it will solve all the problems they have, this is so far from reality.
Some would say that it is the broken family unit that has contributed to the youth issues of today. I also believe this. In South Africa and Africa one of the greatest tragedies is that one or both parents leave the ancestral home in search of work. The children are left with grandparents or someone. In the West, divorce and the pressures of work commitments have placed the children into positions of seeking a family bond in other ways, thus the growth of gangs. This has also manifested here in South Africa.
We hear our government talking about skills development and entrepreneurship. Every society requires the development of skills through internships, apprenticeships and family intervention. Entrepreneurship is something else, we are hearing this as the new buzz word, almost as if it was the holy grail of solving a lot of the problems. I would venture to say that an entrepreneur is someone that is born and as a baby been moulded though experience and influence into being someone that can invent and have the sense of responsibility to be responsible for others. This brings me to the point that what we see in today’s society is that everyone is only looking out for oneself. That sense of ubuntu or hoorah as seen in many American movies has been lost. How do we fix this?
Conscription. In the eighties I had to go do my national service, I fought against it, tried to get out of it, refused to touch a gun and had a moral objection to the idea of having to go fight in a war that made no sense to me. As I have grown older and maybe a little wiser I can now see the value of a conscripted youth. But I have to emphasize NOT a military conscription. What it did, is it united us with a common thought. In the same way apartheid united the ANC and other revolutionary movements. Although on different sides of the fence we all had one thing in common, a united feeling of belonging.
We need to bring this back to our society. At the age of sixteen when a child registers for their first identity document they are then assigned to a conscription camp. If the child decides to leave school at sixteen they are automatically conscripted. Matriculants are then left with various choices; either they further their studies at a University, Technicon, complete an Apprenticeship or they are conscripted. Once finishing tertiary education you are given two choices, either to go straight into a job or become a mentor and educator in the conscripted service.
The first 3 months of conscription. All boys are given the same haircut, very short; all girls are given guidelines and cuts. The next 90 days is taken up with no form of electronic communication, hand written letters to friends and loved ones are permitted. This period is taken up with exercise, more exercise and strict routine. Get up at 5, shower and personal hygiene; make beds and clean dormitory, breakfast, parade and roll call, exercise to lunchtime. After lunch it is assessment of education skills for two hours. Sport until 5, then washing of clothes, ironing and polishing of shoes for an hour. 6 – 6.30 shower, 7 dinner. Free time until 9pm and then lights out.
During this period one assesses the future direction of these young adults. Some will show aptitude in sports, some in education and some that were on drugs will be identified and the corrective measures can be put in place. The desired outcome of the first 3 months is to unite these young adults.
The next 6 months before lunch will be taken up in assessing their personal skills and the future growth path. Where do they see themselves one day and then providing them with the knowledge to understand what is required to reach that point. We would still see that many of these young adults are directionless, so based on their aptitude and interests they are earmarked for certain paths. The second half of the day will be taken up with sport and exercise. Sport teams are built and they are then trained as teams to compete with other teams within their camp. Out of each team there maybe individuals who are better than average and these individuals are identified in making up the camp team to compete against other camps and university teams. This is how we will win medals in the Olympics and how we will transform our national squads into being the best of the best.
The next 2 months would be taken up doing in-depth assessments and allocating these young adults into various skills development programmes giving them a choice of 3 future paths. At the end of the first year they are given back their mobile phones and given leave to go back to their families for Christmas. During the first year they earn a miniscule salary of three to five hundred Rand per month, but their living expenses are taken care of, so this money is pocket money.
In the new year they report back to their camp and are then re assigned. The reassignment has to now become a collaborative effort between government and business big and small. The government still pays them a miniscule salary and the company matches the government contribution. It is below minimum wage but these young adults are provided accommodation and food. The young adults are also reassigned to new camps near where they are going to be doing their internships. During this period a conscriptee can request not to be in a camp but rather at home with their parents.
One of the duties of these young adults during the second year is that they will have to do community service duty in various areas around South Africa. It is a rotation system so they work in all corners of the country providing help to the elderly, the sick and to the rural areas. This community service encompasses all aspects of society thus teaching these young adults compassion and humility to ones neighbours and community.
They are assigned to a business to learn the industry and decide whether or not it is for them. The company that hosts these young adults provides mentors that help and assess their path forward. During this period if the young adult is showing interest and aptitude he or she then can register to further their studies into a formal education system or apprenticeship. There are many careers that don’t necessarily require formal education and the company may offer them a permanent position based on their commitment and work ethic. If this happens then the conscriptee and company can motivate for their early release.
After 2 years national service the young adults are better equipped for the future and hopefully many of them are in newly created jobs and then maybe one day have the skills to be entrepreneurs that then also mentor young adults into becoming productive members of society.
Please note that this is a high level piece of writing that has many flaws and challenges that requires debate and discussion. But, at the end of the day this is probably the best path forward in realising a prosperous South Africa.
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