The ANC’s plans for compulsory community service for all university graduates are “worrying”, a Wits professor has said.

“For the service to benefit students and communities we need careful engagement and well thought out processes that are enabling,” said Dean of Humanities Ruksana Osman.

Osman said several degrees, particularly those in the health sciences, already require time spent on community projects as part of a graduate’s experience.

[pullquote]There were a number of issues with compulsory community service, including whether the policy was affordable[/pullquote]

Osman has done extensive research on the topic of community service and she sees the benefits of making it compulsory.

“Community service is indeed a good way to build civic engagement among young people – It is an ideal way to contribute to society and to strengthen society,” she said.  However, she warned there were a number of issues with compulsory community service, including whether the policy was affordable.

“[Whether] the community and economy can in fact absorb the number of graduates coming out.” A major concern is whether there are enough professionals to mentor the volunteers during their year of service. There is also the issue of agreed upon workplaces where young people can do their service.

“Government has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the experience or service is productive for young people and that it is seen as something that young graduates want to give and not have to [give],” Osman explains.

The ANC announced plans to implement a year of compulsory community service for all university graduates last week.

The party has been talking about implementing this policy since 2010. At the time, the minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande, said he would investigate whether the policy could help develop skills and provide work experience.

The policy is also enshrined in the ANC’s 2014 election manifesto. However, there are no details on how the policy would be implemented.