No money for volunteer corps

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – The government does not have a budget for the young graduates programme, the National Volunteer Corps (NVC) project, Public Eye has established.

This was first revealed the consolidated report on the annual budget and estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2021/2022.

The consolidated report was presented to parliament by the portfolio committee on the economic and development cluster on Tuesday, last week.

“The wages for already engaged youth under NVC programme to the tune of M2 836 242.20 is not budgeted for due to the set ceiling made by the Ministry of Finance,” read the report.

This was confirmed to Public Eye by the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation’s chief information officer, Maqalika Matsepe, yesterday.

“There Ministry found that it did not have enough funds that could also be assigned for that project. We were expecting that parliament will come to our rescue and allocate us some funds,” Matsepe said.

“But if the portfolio committee has said in its report that there are no funds for this project, the ministry will have to decide a way forward from here and we can only comment further after a decision has been made,” he added.

The NVC project was established by the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation supported by the United Nations Volunteer Programme and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as key partners in 2010.

It provides a mechanism for young graduates from universities and third level technical training institutions to access volunteer opportunities in various workplaces in the public and private sectors as well as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and bilateral and multilateral professionals.

The volunteers are young unemployed professionals, below 35 years of age, who are interested in volunteering their services at various levels including community development work. Youth unemployment remains Lesotho’s national tragedy and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s greatest challenge but it seems for now, the government has failed to put its money where its mouth is.

When presenting budget speech for the year 2021/2022 to parliament in February, finance minister, Thabo Sofonea, said youth unemployment was a pressing policy challenge particularly in Lesotho.

“The investment in youth is the only way to ensure their meaningful participation in social-economic life of our country. For our youth, the transition from school to the productive work is slow and often unsuccessful due to inadequate marketable (or appropriate) skills among others,” Sofonea said. “The Lesotho we want, is the one that is free from poverty, inequality, and joblessness especially among the youth,” he added. The youth unemployment crisis has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Young people are disproportionately affected by the jobs purge triggered by the COVID-19 economic crisis, according to a report released by the International Labour organization (ILO). The report tracked the continued effects of the pandemic and global effects to curb infections.

Fifteen-to-25-year olds “facing multiple shocks from the Covid-19 crisis, which could lead to the emergence of a ‘lockdown generation’,” it read. It painted a dire picture of the future of global job security. In February last year while still a minister, Majoro introduced a Youth Apprenticeship and Public Works Programme to complement the National Volunteer Corps project.

“Over 15 500 graduates, and 87 000 have registered for the apprenticeship program. The graduates are dominated by two disciplines; namely teaching and administration/management professions,” Majoro said when presenting budget speech for the year 2020/2021, to parliament in February last year.

“We estimate that the actual numbers are much higher because many youths have approached the ministry indicating that they did not know about it or thought that registration was politically motivated,” he added. He said government would undertake and update registration in April 2020 to ensure the accuracy of the statistics.

He also said: “We are also discovering that the Lesotho private sector does not have the capacity to absorb all the 3 500 graduates, as only 400 have been absorbed and it is now incumbent on government absorbing the remainder. A strategy will be hatched soon on how government can accommodate the remaining graduates.”

“For those without tertiary qualifications, the challenges are lighter. The process of calling them to their duty stations within their constituencies is underway and we estimate all the 8 000 youths will have reported to work by the end of March 2020,” he said.

As at February this year, the youth apprenticeship programme had placed 1,210 graduates across different companies. This is what Sofonea told parliament in February during presentation of his maiden budget speech. He further said 64 had resigned going into formal employment, whilst 13 had been absorbed into permanent employment by the companies they were placed with.

“1 452 undergraduate youth have been placed in community development projects which include maintenance of public assets such as roads and dams. While mostly these are maintenance projects, Qacha’s Nek district has embarked on initiating new roads from scratch and Rothe youth have resuscitated the old orchard which had collapsed,” he said.

He added that government was expanding more apprenticeship packages for both graduates and undergraduates with the guidance and in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, in the areas of security services, health services, education and road maintenance, among others. Commentators have questioned the success of existing plans to create more jobs.

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