1 December 2023

Participants in the universal national service in training, in Evreux, June 17, 2019.

Waking up early, putting on your uniform, participating in the raising of the French flag, singing The Marseillaise before going to various activities around self-defense, commitment, road safety or climate. This ritual which opens each day of universal national service (SNU) today will it soon be a reality for the 800,000 students of 2of ? Whether “the decision rests with the President of the Republic” and “nothing is settled”we insist in the office of Sarah El Haïry, the Secretary of State for Youth in charge of the file, this possible generalization of the SNU has aroused concern and excitement since the publication of a working document revealed by the weekly PoliticsMonday, February 27.

Read also (2021): Article reserved for our subscribers At the universal national service, “camp” atmosphere under the flags

During questions to the government, Tuesday, February 28, Sarah El Haïry was taken to task by left-wing deputies on the subject. “The Republic is not taught by blows of pumps, grotesque parades or by wearing ridiculous caps”, asserted the deputy Generation. s Benjamin Lucas. The Secretary of State defended a “emancipation project” for the youth.

Since its creation in 2019, the SNU, composed of a “cohesion stay” of two weeks, then of an eighty-four hour mission of general interest, is the subject of criticism. It is considered, for many, too expensive and too military. In 2022, 32,000 young people aged 15 to 17 got involved, there were 14,650 in 2021. An increase in the number of volunteers after two years disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but below the target for 50,000 that the government had set itself. This “observation questions the dimensioning of this policy in relation to the appetite of young people for this approach”noted a Senate fact-finding mission in a mid-2022 report.

“Domestication device”

Despite everything, its generalization has been in the air since its origins, and particularly for a few months. “In the next few weeks, I will lay the first foundations for a universal national service”mentioned the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, during his vows, on December 31, 2022, before postponing his announcements so as not to stir up the mobilization of young people, at a time of protest around the pension reform .

Two scenarios are currently on the table for extending the SNU. On the one hand, leave the universal national service on a voluntary basis, during school holidays, but by multiplying the possibilities of participating in it and with incentive measures such as the passage of the driving license or the certificate of aptitude for the functions of facilitator. On the other hand, a generalization centered around the “cohesion stay”. The 800,000 pupils of 2of – the preferred level because there is no exam – would leave for two weeks during school time, on stays staggered from October to June depending on the high school.

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