/ 24 September 2010

Govt moots compulsory service for graduates

The government will look at introducing compulsory community service for university graduates, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said at the ANC’s national general council (NGC) in Durban on Thursday.

Nzimande said a resolution was passed during the NGC’s education commission that his department explore the possibility of introducing compulsory community service for university graduates.

“Some of the reasoning behind this is why do we only do this for doctors,” Nzimande said.

“There are other imperatives as well. Our young graduates can play a whole range of roles from free legal series to accountants to engineers who can be used by rural local government.

“There is an argument for service in terms of skills acquisition. There is also an argument for service in terms of work experience.

“We have a lot of unemployed graduates who are unable to find work. Then there is the aspect of graduates giving something back to the country.”

Legislation making it compulsory for medical graduates to complete a year of community service was introduced amid controversy in 1998.

A study in the SA Medical Journal shortly after the introduction of the legislation found that the law was increasing the tendency of young doctors to leave South Africa.

Nzimande said the government would explore the idea and report back to the ANC’s policy conference in 2012.

He said the commission had also discussed a proposal by Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to open the military for training of young people.

“The defence force has huge facilities and knowledge and skills,” Nzimande said.

“We have a defence force that is not at war. How do we use these facilities? For poor students who want to train as pilots they have no
other place to go, besides the air force. Some of our best nurses work in military hospitals. We have engineers — aeronautical engineers … “

Nzimande said the youth who went for training would be kept “totally separate” from military training and service.

“We don’t want to combine those things. This is the national youth service,” he said. – Sapa