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Ethiopia launching national youth volunteer service program

August 8,2018

The Ethiopian government is launching what is poised to become Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s flagship program of “trans-boundary volunteers.”

With this program, youth volunteers are to serve outside of their respective ethnic-based Federal states, seemingly which is why it is named “trans-boundary”, in the country.

1000 graduating students drawn from different parts of Ethiopia are taking part in the program which is commencing today. And volunteer youth are to get credit for their participation when they are looking for employment after graduation.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with the volunteers today before they are deployed to where they are assigned.

“When you serve the community as volunteers, you also need to learn and acquire knowledge as well,” the prime minister told the volunteers. He meant to emphasize that there is knowledge in the community outside of university and other institutions of higher learning.

Apart from providing new graduates with relevant work experience, the motive of the program is to foster what the government describes as “people to people relation” and national feeling.

Ethiopia has a history of mobilizing youth for volunteer work in the community. Soon after the Ethiopian Revolution in 1974, Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s government embarked on a nationwide illiteracy eradication program by deploying hundreds of thousands of youth in the countryside in different parts of the country to provide basic education. The program was successful so much so that illiteracy was significantly reduced in the country.

Although Abiy Ahmed’s initiative in launching the program seems to be positive and perhaps a move in the right direction, especially if the program is given Ethiopian character as opposed to practices in the west, the political situation in the country could prove difficult to achieve the goals of the program.

This past week, for example, there has been an organized ethnic-based violence in Jijiga and other nearby towns, South Eastern parts of Ethiopia, where more than 29 people were killed and more than 10 churches were burned. Seen from that angle, it is questionable if it is the right time.

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