There is not a state program like national service that substantially determines the fate of nation building and that’s the reason that forces states to extensively allocate their wealth in the program for a better tomorrow. In this program, youth are the key participants, as they are gifted with the most vibrant human energy that can change reality. Ensuring youths’ development is the national service’s top priority in the process of nation building. National service puts youths together in a melting pot, with the ingredients of national norms and values, to make them conscious, organized and well-equipped.
In reference to different sources, national service can easily be defined as a service in which youth perform a year or more of both military training and community service or military service (Bridgeland &DiIulio:2019), and “also an organized activity in which people serve the community in ways that contribute to social, economic and political transformation at no financial reward” (ITORERO Program Strategy:2011).
Youth, as the transforming energy of a nation, benefit a lot from the national service. They develop a collective national identity, multi-skills like problem solving skills and become active mentally and physically. Those benefits significantly affect the possibility and pace of nation building.
In the development of collective identity, national service accommodates youths of all diversity together in a place where they can get socialized with national norms and values that constitutes the national identity. In the common place, they get the chance to exchange their memories, culture, history, and language. Such an opportunity allows the youths to upgrade their national consciousness, as they get socialized with the norms and values that embraces nationalism, patriotism, resilience, hard work, unity, equality and tolerance. This process of socialization assists the youth in developing a collective national identity.
Nurturing the youth with multi-skills like problem solving, communication skills and social skills is the other role national service plays in the process of youth development. Through, the spirit of team work they exchange ideas and experiences; they get a common ground where they can practically apply their knowledge and communicate with different behaviors from various places. Such conditions help the youth develop analytical, communication and social skills. Furthermore, those skills aid youth to master and train their leadership ability.
National service also aids youth to mentally and physically be active by unlocking their potential and assigning them in a sector where they can productively work for the nation. This makes youth become confident, responsible and connected. Moreover, national service by answering the question of identity, need of skill and social role in the society, diminishes the likely causes of stress youth could possibly face from isolation. As the youth are eased of mental demands of social structure and positions they become more physically and mentally active and healthy, as our body is the mirror of our mind.
Eventually, national service works to ensure youths’ productivity by equipping youths with necessary knowledge and fundamental skills such as discipline, and also providing a ground where they can practically apply what they have learned. In addition, to making youth self-secure with mental and physical stability, national service integrates them with their national identity. National service not only encourages the participating youths to be skilled, experienced and productive, but also lays a ground for future generations.
In Eritrea, national service was declared in 1994. Its aims are to establish a strong army that ensures free and sovereign Eritrea, along with incorporating coming generations with national values and norms. By developing the economy and enrolling people in all the economic sectors, fosters national cohesion among the people by eradicating sub-national feelings.
The site that symbolizes Eritrean national service is Sawa, where youth flow every year to fulfill their role as citizens in the Eritrean society. They work to be skilled, patriotic, disciplined, resilient, creative and peace loving people. This precious asset contributed a lot in enabling its citizens to carry Eritrea to a promising national development and protected national sovereignty. Such victory reminds us George W. Shepherd’s enthusiastic note on Eritrea’s significance “….as a force for reconstruction and stability on the Horn and the Red Sea region (George W. Shepherd: 1993: 88).
In conclusion, national service is a pillar of nation building with a significant title role in youth development. Producing a nationalistic, skilled and productive youth is its top priority. In Eritrea, national service is a well-respected culture and a safe passage towards national development. Therefore, we all must actively participate in the national service to build a nation that is prosperous.
Written by: Kidane Shimendi