EPD grant strengthens economic participation of rural youth

The World Bank has contracted the Economic Performance and Development unit to appraise and strengthen the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) Exit Strategy. The NARYSEC programme is a flagship youth development intervention of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), which started in September 2010. Through this programme, the Department recruits thousands of unemployed youths in resource poor rural districts, where youth unemployment levels are very high, and equips them with the necessary skills that can be ploughed back into sustainable socio-economic initiatives in their communities.

To date, over 17 000 rural youths have been enrolled, and more than 11 000 have exited the programme. The problem, however, is that, there is no clear, formalised or streamlined support for enrolees as they complete and exit the programme. The result has been thousands of NARYSEC graduates struggling to meaningful participate in productive and sustainable economic activities, raising questions about how well the NARYSEC learning exposure prepares participants for when they leave the programme.

In an attempt to address this gap, DRDLR drafted a NARYSEC Exit Strategy framework in 2016, with a view of ensuring that the enrolees are not left stranded after programme completion. It is this draft strategy that the HSRC seeks to review and refine. To strengthen and concretise the strategy, it is crucial that it is informed by sound evidence of the early-stage experiences of NARYSEC graduates. What is crucial to understand is the extent to which completing the programme improves the chances of the rural youths to be absorbed into sustainable livelihood activities.

While the draft NARYSEC Exit Strategy conceptualises 3 exit routes (namely further education/ training options, job opportunities and business ventures), a large number of graduates might not be absorbed into any of these exit routes. This makes up a cluster of unemployed rural youth post-exit and it is important to identify some of the reasons why this happens. Also, determinants of whether NARYSEC participants exit along a particular pathway depend upon many factors and these factors deserve careful investigation for effective strategic interventions.

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