The Ghana National Service Scheme was established in 1973 by a Military Decree (N. R. C. D 208) with the mandate to mobilize and deploy Ghanaian citizens of 18 years and above especially newly qualified University graduates on national priority development programmes that contribute to improving the quality of life of the ordinary Ghanaian for a one year mandatory national service.
The Scheme was later given statutory legitimacy under the 1979 Constitution of Ghana with the thrust of N.R.C.D 208 being upheld. The National Service Act of 1980, Act 426 was then promulgated and passed by the Parliament of Ghana to give legal and constitutional backing to the scheme. The mandate of the Scheme remained the same and the duration of service was extended from one to two years under this Act. The Act which was brought into force in 1982, further stipulated a six month military orientation for the service personnel to instil in them a sense of discipline, patriotism and a culture of hard work.
In 1997, a Cabinet decision reduced the duration of the service to one year following a recommendation from the Ministry of Education which has oversight responsibilities over the Scheme. The Scheme has since been operating on the provisions of Act 426 of 1980 which provides the legal framework and direction for programme design and implementation. The Scheme, since its inception has become the institutional option for the Ghanaian youth especially tertiary education graduates to exercise their civic responsibility towards the state through service.