When he was selected to join the National Youth Service (NYS) in 2013, Maurice Wekesa felt it was his lucky escape from biting poverty.
The relaunched NYS had come with lofty promises as the Jubilee administration went out to attract the youth to their side.
The Five-Point Vision that preceded the rebranding of NYS had cost the taxpayer millions of shillings in consultancy fees.
For example, Mr Mutahi Ngunyi, one of the consultants, was reportedly paid Sh38 million for his services.
The five points consisted of paramilitary training and service regimentation, national service and youth re-socialisation, road and dam construction, slum civil works and security/traffic marshals.
Under the reforms, NYS was to recruit and train 21,870 youths every year.
Recruitment was to be conducted twice a year with each intake having 10,935 youth.
Two years after Wekesa graduated from Gilgil College, the young man is the face of the dejected servicemen and women.
“During our passing out parade in April 2014, the President (Uhuru Kenyatta) had promised that the graduates would be paid Sh10,000 a month during the nation building phase of the training up from Sh700 that we were getting during the training. That is a promise that has never been fulfilled,” a forlorn Wekesa told the Sunday Nation.
This comes at a time when the fate of at least 8,000 trainees from the Gilgil NYS Training remains unknown after they were sent home following the delayed passing out by more than five months.
NYS Senior Deputy Director Sam Michuki, however, says the frustration of a few individuals or what may have happened in the past should not be used to judge them.
“We miss the youth and our connection had grown so close that we feel very sad seeing them slide back to the poverty and anti-social activities we had pulled them from. With the new leadership we have, we will deliver and we have had enough time to prepare for it. As much as our name has been tainted, service delivery will be our defender in a few weeks’ time,” the NYS boss said.
When they were recruited, the trainees were told they would be getting a monthly allowance of Sh700, of which Sh500 would directly be paid to them through the National Bank of Kenya.
As a result, all recruits were issued with NBK ATM cards. The other Sh200 was to go into savings.
Interviews with the trainees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reveal that the payments have been inconsistent while the fate of the Sh200 monthly savings remains unknown and no one wants to address it.
After the Sh791 million procurement scandals that rocked NYS, this could turn out to be another low for the service as frustrations among trainees boils over leading to resignations and desertions from the service.
The procurement scandals led to the resignations of Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, and removal from office of Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti and the NYS Director-General Nelson Githinji.
Some of the people mentioned in the scandal, among them Mr Mangiti and Dr Githinji, have been charged in court for various offences.
The situation could soon vindicate the National Intelligence Service (NIS) study of September 2014, and which the Interior ministry refuted, that the idle graduates could become vulnerable and engage in criminal activities given their big numbers, form of training and unclear compensation scheme.
According to Mr Wekesa, under the reforms at NYS, the entire service was to be done under three phases.
The first phase involves recruits going for paramilitary training including fire fighting, physical training (taekwondo and karate etc) and crowd control. This ordinarily should last six months.
And to fulfil the motto of “True to self, True to country” the trainees would then spend the next six months in nation building like slum rehabilitation, street cleaning and any other physical duties assigned to them as a way of giving back to the community.
The third and final stage is the vocational training where graduates acquire different specialities in the NYS schools of engineering, agribusiness, construction, hospitality, fashion, enterprise and technology, public duty and oil and gas.
The vocational training institutes are Kirimun Field Station (Samburu County), NYS Vocational Training Station (Nairobi County), Bura/Hola Irrigation Project (Garissa County), Kerio Valley Development Station (Elgeyo-Marakwet County), Tana Basin Road Project (Tana River County), Garissa Mbalambala Field Station (Garissa County) and Hindi Development Unit (Lamu County).
“The promise of vocational training after six months of nation building had given us hope. That too is not forthcoming leaving many of us demoralised. Even if we were to start classes today, you find that a particular trade has about 2,000 trainees waiting to join yet the colleges insist that a class can only have 20 trainees at a time,” said Mr Wekesa.
Almost two years later, Mr Wekesa is still in Murang’a for his nation building service with no hope of proceeding to the vocational training.
The food rations have reportedly reduced as are other monthly provisions. The monthly pay has also dried up.
“At the end of the six months national building period, we asked our in-charge at Murang’a about the vocational training. He informed us that the diploma holders amongst us would be the first to proceed to the next and final phase. The rest of us were to wait,” he said.
That promise, according to Mr Wekesa was just that, a promise that was never implemented.
According to Mr Wekesa, the diploma holders amongst them were not given further directions on how they would get to the colleges.
“Ordinarily, NYS is supposed to provide buses to transport us to the colleges. Surprisingly, we were informed that NYS would not offer transport because there is no money to fuel the buses. Some of us used their own means to get to the colleges. Even after raising their own fare to get to the colleges, there is nothing going on in the colleges. Instead they have been deployed to do menial jobs,” he said.
Of the 135 servicemen and women who formed the squad that was deployed to Murang’a, just over 70 are still left as frustration grows among the youths.
“The in-charge warned not to bring up the issue of vocational training. Anyone who does that would be let go. Frustrated, some decided to resign. But some have opted to desert since the resignation process is long and arduous and requires one to travel to the (NYS) headquarters. Worryingly, some of those who desert do not leave their uniforms behind,” he said.
Meanwhile, over 8,000 NYS trainees from the Gilgil NYS training institute were sent home two weeks ago after their passing-out was delayed by five months due to lack of funds.
They had been at the institute for eleven instead of six months and the trainees were growing restless.
The institute was to re-open on April 15.
“Hakuna hata bob tangu last year June. Hakuna monthly issues kama tissue, shoe polish, soap, na hata uniform. Training ilifaa kuwa six months now tumekaa for 11 months kwa kambi tu (We have not been paid our monthly allowances since June 2015 and the monthly provisions are not there. Training was to last six months but we were in our 11 month doing nothing),” a frustrated trainee, Crowley Mwangi said.
When they raised these grievances with the institute’s administration, Mr Mwangi says they were asked to go home. For Mr Mwangi, he says he will not be going back.
“The director listened to our grievances but shortly after, we were each given Sh2,000 and ordered out of the institute,” he told Sunday Nation from his home in western part of the country.
The trainees had already rehearsed for the pass out parade by the time the institution was closed.
Even as the institute re-opened, some of the trainees say they will not be going back.
“It is over for me. I have moved on,” another trainee told Sunday Nation.
Source: Sunday Nation.