BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO
GOVERNMENT says it is rebranding the infamous National Youth Service (NYS) programme, set for re-introduction next year, to include early childhood development (ECD) learners.
This was revealed by Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry when she appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth yesterday.
“So rebranding is everything. There will be a new name, uniforms and curriculum. The curriculum will be based on our founding values in the Constitution, patriotism, development and going forward as a country,” Coventry said.
“While targeting ages between 15 and 35, training will start from ECD, with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education introducing age-appropriate content for each learning grade.
“There will (also) be concurrent messages and programmes going through our schools all the way up to tertiary and teachers training colleges.”
The NYS, which is set to be reintroduced next year with an estimated 10 000 youths, was first introduced in 2001 before it folded in 2007 due to underfunding.
In July this year, government announced plans to revive the programme when Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists at a Post-Cabinet briefing that the NYS Policy Guiding Framework and NYS implementation matrix had been approved.
Mutsvangwa said the programme was aimed at instilling core values, which played an integral part in the moulding of a well-cultured and disciplined youth.
However, the proposal was roundly rejected by independent youth groups, which said they did not want to be associated with lawlessness and terror.
The youths, who took part in the NYS, earned the moniker “Green Bombers” after being turned into ruling Zanu PF party storm troopers and used in violent election campaigns. They went through rigorous mandatory military and Zanu PF ideology training.
According to numerous human rights reports, the Green Bombers were responsible for electoral violence, including rape and murder.
Coventry admitted that the NYS earned a bad boy image.
“It had its ups and downs. It was not so good. It had a bit of a shady past. We all know the Green Bombers. That’s not what we are going back to. That is not going to happen and that’s not going to be tolerated,” Coventry said when quizzed about introducing NYS at ECD level.
The NYS programme, first launched by the late Youth minister Border Gezi in 2001, was introduced to drill revolutionary and patriotic ideologies into the country’s young citizens.
At the time, there were proposals to force Ordinary Level students to undergo the NYS training programme before proceeding to Advanced Level and tertiary institutions.
The programme came under a barrage of attacks after being dismissed as a training ground for the feared and infamous Zanu PF youth brigades.
Zanu PF defended the NYS as necessary to produce patriotic youths, much to the chagrin of the opposition that reportedly bore the brunt of the graduates’ violence.