Do you encourage students to do community service?

Developing the spirit of community service among young people is the way to go. It should be encouraged in schools because it makes formal education more meaningful to the learners. As they engage in community service, they become conscious of the values and needs of the society and education is intended to address such needs.

Developing the spirit of community service among young people is the way to go. It should be encouraged in schools because it makes formal education more meaningful to the learners. As they engage in community service, they become conscious of the values and needs of the society and education is intended to address such needs.

Young people should be guided on how they can make a difference in their communities and in the lives of other people through public clean-ups and offering support to the needy.

My experience in coordinating the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People has shown me that young people have the potential of serving their communities voluntarily. All they need is guidance and inspiration.

Young people can actively participate in maintaining hygiene in the society by participating in cleaning hospitals, schools, markets, places of worship, streets and public offices. They only need to form groups of volunteers guided by their teachers or youth leaders. Then, they can work together to identify places that require cleaning, seek permission from the authorities and carry out the cleaning exercise.

In the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People, we encourage the participants to do community service at least once every week. At school level, they can clean dormitories, dining halls, classrooms and offices. They can also pick litter on the school compound. As they clean the school premises, they send a message to the rest of the students about the need to keep the environment clean. They may also offer support to fellow students who may be sick while at school by washing their clothing and taking them to the school clinic for medical attention.

At community level, they can carry out public clean-ups in hospitals, markets and public offices. When they clean such places, they send a signal to the public about the importance of maintaining hygiene in public places. They can serve as ushers in church services or help in Sunday schools. They can do such work once in a while so that their studies are not compromised.

I used to take the Bronze Award participants for community service in hospitals in Uganda and I observed that the young people were always enthusiastic about the activity. The sight of patients suffering in the wards would always inspire them to work with vigour. They would talk to some patients and their attendants as a way of comforting them.

The impact was really great and their efforts were acknowledged by everyone in the hospital. By the time they were awarded Bronze medals and certificates, they felt that they deserved such accolades. Their conduct at school was also transformed and they exhibited high levels of discipline.

The young people can also visit orphanages and the elderly and offer support in terms of provision of literacy skills, donations of some basic items like soap and clothing and helping the needy to put in place makeshift bathrooms, kitchens and dust bins. The objective is to restore hope to the disadvantaged people and also develop the spirit of volunteerism among the young people.

Students should be sensitized about the other purposes of community service. There are several prestigious Universities in the world that offer scholarships to students who excel in academics and are also outstanding in community service.

Employers give priority to applicants who have strong backgrounds in community service because they are considered to be pro-active, responsible, self-directed, and sensitive to the needs of society. They have good organizational and leadership skills.

Therefore, parents and teachers should encourage students to participate in community service for their own good and for the good of the society. The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award’s website is www.intaward.org.

The writer is a teacher at Riviera High School

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