The National Youth Service (NYS) is a Government department established by an Act of Parliament (Cap 208 Laws of Kenya) on September 1, 1964. The twin purposes were to create a pool of technical, disciplined and organised human resource to undertake national development programmes and to alleviate youth unemployment in both formal and informal sectors by providing skills necessary for employment while promoting national cohesion.
These objectives remain relevant to date.
The vision of NYS is to catalyse a transformative youth empowerment in Kenya
Servicemen and Servicewomen always participate in national parades, carrying spades instead of rifles as a symbol of disciplined manpower to support national development. They are also a familiar sight at exhibitions, agricultural shows and other ceremonies where thy act as crowd-control. NYS members are prohibited from joining or forming a trade union.
President Uhuru Kenyatta relaunched the programme in 2013 as a way of connecting with and encouraging young people to seek vocation. It is a voluntary work and educational programme for young Kenya citizens.
NYS is bigger and better this time around, allowing for more recruits – more than 20,000 from the original 4,000 annually.
With the relaunch of NYS after 50 years, the Service has successfully recruited and trained 10,740 young men and women who had their pass-out on April 23, 2015. This is the largest number that has been recruited and trained successfully in any disciplined force. The young men and women will provide a task force for the country.
Initially it all started with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s strong desire to ensure the over 40 per cent of unemployed youth had purpose and contributed to the development of the country. For more than 50 years, the NYS had been a symbol of pride for the youth, somewhere for the youth to go and learn discipline as well as picking up skills that would help them later in life. However, a need to move with the time has arisen.
The NYS, in consultation with the Cabinet Secretary of Devolution and Planning, Ms Anne Waiguru, came up with the five-point vision encompassing paramilitary training and service regulation, national service and youth re-socialisation, dam and road construction, slum civil works and security traffic marshals.
To achieve the ambitious five-point vision, there was need to give the service a whole new look, to illustrate to the world that things had changed at NYS. This started with the logo and official NYS motto, change of the service uniform and theme colours to match the brand.
The justification of the rebrand was to attract the youth at all costs, ensuring they are proud of their uniforms and believe in the motto they embody. This was successful as during the first recruitment exercise after the rebrand the number of recruits increased from 4,000 to 20,000 as youth across the country flocked to recruitment centres. This number is increasing steadily with each recruitment exercise.
A new element of the rebranded and restructured NYS is the encompassing of community youth in ensuring the goals set by the five-point vision are met. This was initially launched in Kibera in 2014; before being extended to Mathare, Korogocho and Mukuru Kwa Njenga informal settlements and Kiandutu earlier this year.
Through empowering the youth, NYS has engaged over 3,600 community youth. To this end, economic empowerment has taken centre stage to ensure sustainable human development across the country.
The NYS is now recruiting 20,000 youth annually, who will pupil over 200,000 community youth throughout their nation building activities. Additionally, the service is now involved in massive development projects all over the country.
The restructuring and rebranding was substantial enough to attract visits from delegations from Ghana and Lesotho to come and learn how to implement similar programmes in their countries. The NYS rebrand received recognition from the Marketing Society of Kenya.
The ministries of Transport and Infrastructure; Energy and Petroleum; Sports, Culture and the Arts; Environment, Water and Natural Resources; Land, Housing and Urban Development; Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries; Health and the county governments will be important stakeholders in achievement of all NYS targets.