In Châtenay-Malabry (Hauts-de-Seine), from Saturday February 18 to Monday March 6, 2023, 82 young people are doing their compulsory universal service (SNU). During their school holidays, these young people aged 15 to 17 get up at dawn, sing the national anthem and hoist the French colors.

As part of their SNU, they carry out a “cohesion stay” in a department other than their own. On the program, from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.: civic workshops and learning modules on issues related to defence, memory, the transmission of “the values ​​of the Republic” as well as sustainable development.

“We learn about the armed forces, we learn about politics. We learn about everything, to be a good citizen”, declares a young participant to our colleagues from BFMTV.

In 2022, 32,000 young people participated in the UNS. At an almost military pace, wearing identical uniforms, these young people do not have access to their mobile phones during their stay. According to Régis, a supervisor: “The No. 1 objective is cohesion, to mingle, to discover other people, other social backgrounds. They themselves admitted having spoken to people they did not wouldn’t speak in everyday life.”

Monday, February 27, Politis unveiled an internal working document at the Ministry of National Education until then confidential. This document reveals that the UNS is intended to become mandatory by 2024.

As part of an experiment, all second and first CAP students in 6 departments should participate in the SNU from January 2024. Then, a gradual expansion to the whole territory should take place, reports Politis.

The internal document at the Ministry of National Education has not yet been formalized, but the Secretary of State in charge of the SNU, Sarah El Haïry, confirmed to Politis that generalization is one of the options on which she is working.

“If the SNU became compulsory, it could then be registered during school time”, explains the Secretary of State. The generalization and the obligatory character of the SNU would concern 800,000 young people throughout France. The cost of the device is estimated at nearly two billion euros per year.

On the other hand, the SNU should not fundamentally be compulsory. With franceinfo, which was also able to consult the said document, the Secretary of State at the SNU indicates that it could be an incentive device, “with in particular training in the driving license offered for any SNU carried out”.

The internal document also specifies that “such a rise in power implies access to buildings for summer camps in order to receive cohorts of at least 150 young people, over periods which increase in the year.”

This 12-day stay should necessarily take place outside the department of the young person concerned. It will be followed by an “optional period of engagement which may take the form of civic service or engagement in the reserves”.

In addition, the young people who will participate in the SNU will not be able to choose either the date or the place of their convocation, although a postponement may be accepted “in the event of force majeure”.

The generalization of the device worries the teachers’ unions. Sophie Vénétitay, deputy secretary general of the SNES-FSU teachers’ union, considers that “the SNU is not a good idea. It’s a waste of money stolen from national education.”

“When you read the list of activities: such as raising awareness of sustainable development or when you hear members of the government defending the SNU as a meeting place for students from different social backgrounds, for emancipation through learning, but this place already exists and it’s called school! These are themes that we deal with in class”, continues Sophie Vénétitay.

For the moment the mandatory SNU is only a project. The government should modify the law to have the device adopted and, therefore, have it voted on in Parliament. The military service had been dissolved on October 28, 1997: could the UNS replace it?

In which departments could compulsory universal service be imposed from January 2024?