By Najibu Mulema
The National Graduate Service Bill which effectively proposes a controversial National Service Scheme that was championed by former president Milton Obote in the first post-colonial Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) led government in the 1960s had been fronted by a private member, Bunya County MP, Waira Majegere proposes that graduates from institutions of higher learning undertake to serve for one year in disparate sectors including the military.
But State Minister for Labour Herbert Kabafuzaki yesterday indicated that the government will not support the Bill, arguing that it flies in the face of Constitutional provisions that provide that labour has to be voluntary and paid.
With the government declining to support the Bill, Majegere will have an uphill task as the National Resistance Movement (NRM) boasts of over 300 MPs in a Parliament of 431 MPs. Parliament on Tuesday authorised Majegere to draft the Bill. The government may also deny Mr Majegere the Certificate of Financial Implications(CIF),a mandatory requirement for the Bill to be tabled in Parliament.
Kabafuzaki insisted that labour has to be voluntary and paid, contrary to the main objective of the Bill which is the provision of compulsory one-year national service that the draft Bill proposes.
“It (the Bill) contradicts our Constitution. Our constitution categorically says our labour should be paid. If you are talking about free labour, then you are violating the Constitution. If it is free, it should be voluntary but you cannot say let’s put a law to force people to work,” Mr Kabafunzaki said.
The Bill, however, proposes a stipend to be paid to graduates. For graduates employed in the Public or Public-Private sector, the concerned entity would pay while those in the Private sector would be paid by the National Service Scheme secretariat.
But employers and trade unionists welcomed the Bill, saying that mandatory one-year national service will improve the skills of fresh graduates to respond to criticism that fresh graduates are often below par for employment.
Rosemary Senabulya, the executive director of Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE), said the proposed National Service Scheme will offer an opportunity for graduate to make sound career decisions.
“It is good because it gives an opportunity to all graduates to gain skills before venturing into employment,” Senabulya said.