Uhuru’s 10-years of hands-on transformation of the National Youth Service

President Uhuru Kenyatta in a light moment with NYS recruits.

Photo credit: National Youth Service

By Evans Ongwae

In 2013, the intake of recruits at the National Youth Service (NYS) was about 3,500. Presently, the Service is registering an average annual intake of about 20,000.

This growth in numbers is just one aspect of the elaborate transformation the NYS has undergone since Uhuru Kenyatta became President of the Republic of Kenya in 2013.

The President’s hands-on approach to elevating the status of the institution has endeared it to more Kenyan youths over the years. As President Kenyatta exits the seat later this year, he leaves behind a progressive NYS that is firmly on the road to its vision of becoming “A centre of excellence in transforming, training and empowering Kenyan youth”.

NYS is mandated to undertake training of its members, commercialise production and services; and collaborate with stakeholders for the furtherance of national development activities.

Its mission is “To develop disciplined and empowered youth, and instil members of the Service and staff with patriotism, loyalty, integrity and commitment to duty and service for effective participation in national development.”

Photo credit: National Youth Service

Accordingly, NYS provides diverse services that contribute to national development in various respects, and therefore plays a big part in promoting government initiatives, including empowering youths through training and involvement in national projects.

Recognising the potential of NYS to do more, President Kenyatta has over the years taken a keen involvement in the implementation of programmes to enhance its capacity and improve its operations.

Here, we highlight a few:

Digitisation and Business Process Re-Engineering

In April 2021, President Kenyatta launched the NYS Servicemen/women Tracking System at the institution’s Paramilitary Academy. The system is used to track the advancement of servicemen/women through paramilitary training, national service, vocational training and job placement. NYS is also currently digitising its business processes through use of enterprise resource planning systems.

Diversity and Inclusion

Since inception, NYS had been led by men, until September 18, 2019, when President Kenyatta broke the trend with the appointment of Ms Matilda Sakwa as the Director General/CEO of the Service. Ms Sakwa is thus the first-ever woman to hold the position.

President Kenyatta with Ms Matilda Sakwa, the first woman to be appointed Director General/CEO of NYS.

Photo credit: National Youth Service

President Kenyatta also became the first head of state to commission the inclusion of persons with disability in the Service. Subsequently, since 2015, 308 people with disability have been recruited and trained at the NYS. 

‘Buy Kenya, Build Kenya’ Initiative

In 2018, President Kenyatta ordered all disciplined services to have their uniforms stitched at the NYS Textile and Garment Technology Institute. Modernisation of the facility has increased production efficiency from 100 pieces per day in 2015 to more than 2,200 pieces per day presently.

President Kenyatta at the modernised NYS Textile and Garment Technology Institute.

Photo credit: National Youth Service

Contribution to Food Security

NYS enhances food security in the country. For example, it produces certified potato seedlings through hydroponic farming technology at its Tumaini farm in Nyandarua County. This goes a long way to improve potato farming in the country. Beyond this, the NYS produces more than 1,500 tonnes of food items yearly.

Environmental Conservation

Through innovation, NYS unveiled a new model handcart (mkokoteni) that does not require raw human energy to move. The Service also introduced an improved auto-rickshaw, popular as “tuk-tuk”, that uses zero fuel to run to avoid emitting greenhouse gases. Both of these have more carrying capacity than ordinary types.

Also, the Service takes part in the Greening Kenya Initiative, and has planted more than 10 million tree seedlings over the last 10 years.

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