Zimbabwe's Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment has circulated a proposal to introduce national service training to schools from pre-school university bringing liberation war veterans aboard as instructors, sources said.
Sources familiar with a concept paper drafted by the ministry said the program was to be implemented in all schools next month and would be supervised by officials of the Youth Ministry and trained youth based at the local ward level.
The sources said the ministry paper proposed to train at least 300,000 students from pre-school to university level each year. At the pre-school level, instruction would focus on the national flag and anthem, cultural dances and role-playing.
Pupils in primary school would focus on the nation’s liberation struggle, physical fitness and national development studies, according to the concept paper, sources said.
The ministry was keen to see liberation war veterans being integrated into the national program at all levels, the sources said.
But Education Minister David Coltart told VOA that such a program is unacceptable. “Any national service program has to start once a child completes school and therefore anything introduced before that will disrupt a child’s education,” said Coltart.
He said the Youth Ministry did not consult him in crafting the proposed national service training program and that thge Cabinet has not yet deliberated on the issue.
Former freedom fighter Max Mnkandla said the national youth program being mooted by ZANU-PF is designed to brainwash young Zimbabweans.
National Youth Development Trust Director Liberty Bhebhe said young people should not be engaged in paramilitary programs. "The youth service program is some kind of paramilitary exercise and we believe that it is structured in such a way that there is a high risk of indoctrination," Bhebhe told VOA.
Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere could not be reached for comment.
The national service program is best known for its so-called Border Gezi training schools which turned out youth militia closely associated with ZANU-PF who have been accused of committing many atrocities during the turbulent 2008 elections.