Contents
1. Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 2
2. A conceptual and theoretical frame work of a National Youth Service ............................................ 3
3. State practice: comparative experiences of NYS in the world and in Africa in particular .................. 5
4. Is the National Civic Service Agency for Participatory Developmentin Cameroon a National Youth Service? ............................................................................................................................................. 8
5. A need for a ‘true’ National Youth Service in Cameroon? .............................................................. 10


The need for a ‘true’ National Youth Service in Cameroon

Written by Nazarius Chia Fukah
BA (Hons) Criminology, Criminal Justice and Politics
MA, Terrorism, International Crime and Global Security



Introduction

Economic dependence and cultural diversity are the bedrock upon which the elites of ex-colonial states attempt to construct a functioning state apparatus, a viable economy, and a sense of nationhood to surround and enshrine the emergent order. The achievement of national integration is sought in language and education policies, cultural and ideological programmes, and the structuring of access to and distribution of available resources. It is basically for this reason that a number of governments in the world and Africa in particular require their highly educated youth to spend a year of service to the nation after they leave the university.

This contribution thus focuses on the importance and impact of a ‘true’ National Youth Service (NYS) to Cameroon. Reference is made to the country’s National Civic Service for Participation in Development (NCSPD) which is coordinated by the National Civic Youth Agency for Participatory Development (the Agency). Has Cameroon’s orientations and attitudes been altered as a result of the NYS in other states? And if so, in what ways? What is the importance of other structures like

Cameroon Rural Financial Corporation and the Cameroon Bank for Small and Medium size enterprises? Are these changes conducive to national integration? In short, is the NCSPD a ‘true’ National Youth Service? The cases of Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa will be utilised in this contribution, because the NYS in these states have been helpful in curbing unemployment, inequality and social exclusion. The NYS in these states have also contributed in reducing crime and youth gang activity.

A conceptual and theoretical frame work of a National Youth Service

National Youth Service (NYS) is a concept that is transformative in nature and is broadly defined as the “involvement of young people in activities which provide benefits to the community whilst developing the abilities of young people through service and learning.” Informed by an understanding that: young people are disengaged because of a sense of powerlessness and irrelevance as opposed to apathy or disinterest; overcoming this sense of powerlessness and irrelevance necessitates access to opportunities for participation as individuals as well as a generation; their sense of efficacy increases when they are connected to issues that matter and key civic actors and institutions are encouraged to see young people as valuable resources; and meaningful opportunities to participate must be provided today to secure tomorrow. Thus NYS, as a special government initiative, seeks to add to the enhancement of youth as present and future social capital. An enhanced citizen status of young people means that they can participate meaningfully in the political, social and economic life of the country.

The literature on youth service and national integration is vast,1 and need not be summarised here. M. Weiner categorises five meanings of the concept: the change from cultural diversity to national identifications, the establishment of a central political authority, the linkage of elite and masses, minimum value consensus, and a capacity for action towards a common goal - all thought to be answers to the question of what holds a society and political system together.2 Integration and nation-building, as aspects of political development, are multi-dimensional, holistic, goal, and process in one. Three main obstacles must be overcome: cultural cleavages among groups, an elite-mass gap, and a separation of sub-national and national identifications, or the absence of national

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