NYSC: Are Nigerian Youths Suffering Under The Toiling Sun?, by Halimat o. Shittu
The National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) has an anthem, and I am always fascinated by the third stanza which reads: ‘Under the sun or in the rain’. Looking at the wording of the stanza, one would metaphorically see through the situation many of our graduates face while serving their fatherland. Apart from the physical difficulties most corps members face, the fear of what comes after the compulsory one-year service is what troubles the minds of most of them during their service years.
The desperation of the youths in getting a job has led many to travel abroad, leaving many others idle in Nigeria, hopelessly submitting CVs from one organization to the other. Although few smart ones have enrolled themselves in a skilled work, graduates from well-to-do homes do not even have to stress about getting a job, only the less-privileged ones go looking for jobs.
Many celebrities were in one time or the other seen flaunting pictures of themselves in Khaki attire of the NYSC but how many of them actually spent a night in the NYSC orientation camp? So, how many of children of the Nigerian politicians can obey the clarion call ‘under the sun and in the rain’? As it is, only the children of ordinary Nigerians are subjected to the compulsory 1-year service.
The NYSC has many objectives, some of which include promotion of national unity, inculcation of discipline and spirit of patriotism in the youths and to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy. Other objectives are to live and work in any part of Nigeria, to make skills available to areas of needs in Nigeria, to prepare the youths for life after graduation and to provide greater employment opportunities for the youths.
While the scheme may have been achieving some of these objectives, it seems that one very crucial objective of the scheme seem difficult to be achieved, that is the aftermath of the 1-year national service. The fear of the unknown throws many of these graduates off balance, asking questions like: ‘Will I get a job? Would I have to be a POS attendant? Would I go back to my parents’ house to sit?’
The unquantifiable amount of desperation of these corps members and many others that passed out but are yet to get any meaningful job have forced some people, especially on social media, to be calling for the scrapping of the entire scheme.
First and foremost, I think scrapping the scheme would only render many NYSC staff jobless, which is of no improvement to the state of unemployment in the country. Rather, the scheme should be made voluntary for those who desire to participate actively and permit the ones that have no interest to go on with their lives. Yes, we all know that many youths have no interest in the scheme but the importance attached to the certificate is the reason why many of them have to forcefully participate in the scheme.
If the scheme can be made voluntarily, the government would be able to save resources which could have been given to those graduates who have no interest in participating in the program. These resources could then be used in giving the participating graduates a skill set.
Another sad tale is that due to inadequate government agencies to absorb these corps members, not all serving corps members get a place to serve, especially in organizations that are related to their areas of specialization. This alone is killing the morale of most promising students who have the will to put to use new ideas they might have acquired.
The large number of prospective corps members is another reason why many of them fall victim to getting posted to schools to teach. Sadly, many of them only end up teaching a subject that is not even related to their course of study, which, inadvertently, is a big disadvantage and waste of time for such corps members.
The high level of insecurity is another reason the government should make the program voluntary or allow graduates to choose a state of their choice to avoid getting posted to crisis-prone states. If graduates can be allowed to choose their state of deployment, most would be able to choose a state in which they have families, saving them the cost of accommodation. Graduates can benefit from this is getting to submit a request letter of their preferred organization if they are familiar with the state. Another thing we stand to gain is that more graduates have a chance to get their dream job because once this service is being made optional, it provides graduates the opportunity of getting their dream jobs.
In my opinion, the Federal government should make the corps members undergo a training or learn a skill for 4-6 months in the orientation camp giving them a sustainable amount of money as allowance since it’s within the orientation camp. Thereafter, a reasonable start-up capital should be given at the end of the 6-month training. Necessary equipment should also be made available in the orientation camp.
I am hopeful that the proposed National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Trust Fund will foster easy access to start-up capital for corps members.
At the swearing-in ceremony of Batch “C” Stream I corps members, the Director General of NYSC, Brigadier General, Muhammed Fadah, said the establishment of the scheme Trust Fund would provide a leeway to improve on the infrastructural development of the scheme.
While appealing for the support of stakeholders in the call for the establishment of the NYSC Trust fund which has reach an advance stage, he added that it would enhance the smooth operation of the scheme, especially in the area of infrastructure and provision of start-up capital for corps members’
He also charged the corps members to capitalize on the self-employment offered through the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme to be self-employed and employers of labour.
The NYSC program law should be revisited and amended so the average Nigerian youths do not continue to enslave themselves in an organization that would not even retain them after the service year. After all, the people of the higher class would end up bribing their way out of the scheme without having to engage in any of the Place of Primary Assignments(PPA), Community development services(CDS) ,or even clearance processes and still get their certificates.
Halimat o. Shittu is NYSC members serving in Wuye, Abuja