GOVERNMENT PLANS TO RECRUIT STREET KIDS FOR SKILLS-TRAINING UNDER ZAMBIA NATIONAL SERVICE (ZNS) BOUND TO FAIL AND LIKELY TO INCREASE ARMED BANDITS
Minister of Youth, Sports and Child Development Moses Mawere is reported in Sunday Times of January 29, 2017 to have said Government plans to recruit street kids above 18 years to be taught life skills under Zambian National Service (ZNS). The Minister informed the nation that government’s intention was to create a platform under ZNS to teach street-kids in skills such as plumbing, tailoring, mechanics, carpentry and other relevant courses so that they become self-reliant.
As the Green Party, we believe it is delusional for government to think that street-kids can become “self-reliant” through such a programme. If anything, we believe the programme is likely to backfire in that it may give rise to armed banditry in the country.
It goes without saying that before the streets kids receive training in the so-called life skills, it will be imperative that they undergo basic military training so as to orient them to military discipline. Knowing the notorious character of street kids, if such persons are off-loaded back onto streets after receiving military training, in the event of capital provided getting squandered (if start-up capital will be provided as part of package), then we should expect them resorting to armed banditry.
While we applaud the desire by Government to groom the street-kids into responsible citizens, our advice is that the street kids should be recruited and employed on full-time- pensionable basis so that they are kept off the streets permanently. Furthermore, the programme should not only be restricted to street kids but extended all other unemployed youths who voluntarily wish to join the programme. In addition, the programme should be oriented towards production of high-value crops on large-scale basis rather than plumbing, mechanics, brick-laying, carpentry and others. These skills should only be complimentary trades in the big picture of high-value agriculture.
Government should draw lessons from previous programmes of street-kids recruitment under ZNS. Under the UNIP Government, street-kids were recruited under ZNS and deployed to Kambilombilo on the Copperbelt and Kanakantampa in Lusaka, now Chongwe. That programme was successful except that the type of agriculture that they ventured into (maize), is a low value crop which does not yield reasonable profit. Maize is a high-labour low value crop which by and large has impoverished small-scale farmers in rural areas.
Life-skills training programmes by successive governments conducted at ZNS Kitwe Skills Centre have all been disastrous. It will therefore be folly and a waste of public resources for Government to go back to failed programmes. Such a programme may compromise State Security in the long-run.
Green Party of Zambia