The Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC), in just a year, has seen a significant increase in the number of youth enrolled in the programme considered part of the Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF) efforts to contribute to the changing of the culture of violence in the island.
Yesterday, as he took part in the opening ceremony for the JNSC’s $500-million multipurpose building at Up Park Camp, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, the chief of defence staff, said the JDF had a responsibility to support nation building not just from the perspective of defence but in a holistic way.
Meade pointed out that since the programme got under way in 2017, a total 3,455 participants have been enrolled, and of the graduates, the JDF has retained, in the regular force, approximately 70 per cent of those who completed the year.
A significant number of those not retained, he said, have been placed for work in agencies across Government and are being made available to private enterprises.
In February last year, as the JNSC was announced winner of The Gleaner Honour Awards’ Platinum Award, Meade said that 1,571 youngsters across five overlapping cohorts had, up to then, benefited from the corps.
“We see ourselves as part of a short- medium- and long-term plan to help change Jamaica,” Meade said yesterday.
“In the short run, the JDF is assisting the Jamaica Constabulary Force to deal with the immediacy of violent crime that we have. In the medium term, we seek to build the capacity of the JDF to better deal with the normalisation of the high levels of violence and in the long run, we are seeking to change this culture of violence, and this JNSC programme is critical in that regard.”
Prime Minister Andrew Holness described the realisation of a dedicated building for the corps as a “physical manifestation of a dream” he had for young people in Jamaica.
Holness said the JDF was bringing into its fold young men and women from across Jamaica who otherwise might become recruits for gangs that have their own forms of discipline, their own culture, and their own reward system.
“Now we are taking in almost 1,000 youngsters per year, and they are being trained. That’s a thousand less potential for gangs,” he said.