The idea for this critique was birthed after my semi- structured interview with over 20 individuals on their NYSC experience. This research was for a different project I was working on, but with the wealth of knowledge I gained from the interactions, I decided to put it to good use in analysing what the youths of today learn from the year long mandatory programme. In some sorts, it’s a process that lead most into adulthood once they’re through with their undergraduate education, embracing them into the world of work and adult life. Hence, I believe it’s quite important to assess this so called programme that has been levied on us by the government.
In writing this article, I tried to convince myself that the NYSC is truly a positive and unique experience, but whichever way I dissected it, some things were glaringly obvious – it’s unique alright, but definitely not positive for everyone involved.
Why do I say so? Bear with me while I try to explain. I say try because the NYSC is quite an intricate experience, and depending on whom you talk to, opinions will differ. In addition, I haven’t undertaken it yet, so you might think of me as an outsider looking in, but perhaps that’s just the right “set of eyes” needed for this analysis- an objective observer. Thus, in order to uphold my objectivity, I’ll outline the positives and negatives of the NYSC experience.
Reading through the official NYSC website, I was impressed by its objectives. It states that the NYSC was birthed out of the need to “reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war.” It also goes on to state that the scheme was created “with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.”
However, looking over the research I’ve compiled in the last couple of months, I wonder if it’s said objectives are being met as it currently runs today, post civil war.
Gone are the days when the scheme was developed to establish Nigeria as a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens. Opportunities for everyone? Abeg, who dem dey wash? I even giggled where it talked about University students being elitist. Abeg, elitist for where? Is it not graduates I see unemployed years after graduation? Or graduates who really haven’t learned much because they’ve gone through University bribing their way to the next level?
In today’s society, just what is the NYSC supposed to teach us? What values or skills does it add, bar it’s benefits to the government shirking from its responsibilities? Is it just a delay tactic from the inevitable unemployment phase that awaits most graduates? These questions and many more come to mind when I think about NYSC. So forgive me dear friends when I say I’m not excited to enroll for it.
Without further ado, let’s get into it by starting with the positives for NYSC.
Yes, I love it’s inclusiveness! The fact that the scheme was established to promote unity irrespective of state of origin, tribe, or religion is fantastic! In a country where some people would easily draw on stereotypes when dealing with someone from another tribe instead of using sense, it’s great to know that the NYSC was created to build bonds between all Nigerians from different backgrounds. Most people I talked to were quite excited to have met people from all over the country and particularly found this as a great experience. It might be safe to assume that without the NYSC scheme, most of these people would have never had these interactions.
Also, most people I talked to were glad for the opportunity to travel to other states and experience what life is like in those places. As a traveller, I can totally relate. Wonderful experiences are usually had when on a journey. Also, these corpers get to learn from different cultures which might be different from that which they learned at home; and I’m all for learning about new cultures! The more we learn about ourselves and our history as a nation, the stronger and more unified we become and stand together as one. So yay for the NYSC for doing that.
What I love most about the whole scheme is the opportunity to contribute and help people in different communities. This could be seen through the CDS initiative where one person I interviewed told me she felt she was making a real difference in people’s lives. So perhaps, the NYSC scheme is really a great initiative and meets most of its objectives, so what’s the problem you might ask? Well, read on.
Most people I talked to found the 3 weeks orientation camp tiring and horrendous. I mean, talk about the conditions that the corps had to live in, and not to mention the toilet facilities. Why will the giant of Africa treat its citizens and future leaders so?
What about the morning drills, long speeches which no one seemed to remember, parade, marches, beauty competitions, cooking competitions, sporting competitions, etc. Abeg, are we in secondary school? And nightly curfews at 9pm? Are we children?
I have a lot to say about these “activities” but let me not waste my word count. For goodness sake, corps are GRADUATES! What values are these activities adding to enrich their lives or bolster their skills for future leadership?
Why will grown people of 21 years and over be dabbling in beauty and cooking competitions? If they haven’t learned to cook by the time they get to camp na your concern? Also we all did interhouse sports in primary and secondary school, so why is it being revisited after University? However, perhaps it is used as a means to develop camaraderie amongst the graduates? Still, I believe better bonding activities can be used to achieve this means, so it’s a no for me.
Again, why do our elders like to control us? What’s the point in telling adults what time to turn off their lights? If they know when they’re to wake up the next morning, won’t sense tell them when to go to bed and rest for a goodnight’s sleep? Person wey no wake up the next morning, na im concern be that! I find this particularly ridiculous. Oh, and corps also can’t leave camp for the 3 weeks unless they get special permission from the camp officials. Abeg, na prison?
When will we let our young people be independent? No wonder we see some adults so lost when they get into ‘real life’ situations. Well, they’ve never had to think for themselves have they?
NYSC ‘people’ send graduates to cities they’ve never been to and for the first 3 weeks, they’re under lock and key! Why not let them explore their new surroundings before the work phase of the service year begins? You might say for security reasons, but that doesn’t make sense because after the camp orientation, they get to live and roam the state, so is security not an issue then? Also, having security issues in the first place shows the awful security measures we have as a country.
The most worrying of this NYSC scheme for me is the actual work the corpers get to do. From what I’ve researched, more often than not, graduates are being posted to workplaces that don’t relate to their degrees at all! So you can see someone who studied Chemical Engineering at University working at a local government office, filing paper and running errands for older staff. They are not learning any practical skills that will help their future careers. In order words, they are wasting time and effort that could be used in doing something productive and worthwhile. It is no wonder some people have “agreements” with their zonal officials and abscond to do other meaningful things.
Another worrying thing is the amount of people being sent to teach in schools. Some, even at the University level. I mean, what made these corpers qualified to teach? Just because you’ve gone to school and finished doesn’t make you equipped to teach others. Why are we not concerned in giving our future generations the best education there is? It’s a fact that the strength of a good economy lies in the skills and abilities of its labour force(workers). So if we’re giving our young ones sub par education, what then can we look forward to in the future? The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? The rich sending their children abroad for the quality education everyone should be getting, and the poor being served fifth best? And to top it off, most of these corpers don’t get ANY training. They simply get the term’s syllabus and are left to their own devices. We would hope that these corpers will do their best and teach the students to the best of their abilities, but that itself is wishful thinking. Nigeria, we can do better. We have to do better!
Another negative of the NYSC is that most people I spoke to relayed that they weren’t doing anything useful at the places they were posted to. They were simply given menial tasks and sent on errands. Thus not gaining any useful practical knowledge that will help them in their future careers. Also, most of the people I talked to weren’t retained. So after the 11 months service year, it’s back to square 1- No added value, no good practical experience, no job! Sigh.
Also, the fact that the NYSC scheme is just another avenue for bribery and corruption is outstanding. Is there any institution in this great country that will not falter and uphold some values? It is no wonder that we mostly want to buy our way out of difficult situations. Money makes the world go round after all right?
And for the last but not the least, I believe that the NYSC board can do better at paying corpers. The amount I hear some people get paid is not enough to survive on alone, thus making them still dependent on family. Most of whom are struggling as it is and hoping the employment of their children will bring better days. I believe a better budget plan can be made towards the NYSC. I’m sure cutting a tiny percent from the allawee from our government officials will make it happen. Lol!
But perhaps I’m getting it all wrong. Maybe the NYSC scheme is a great cause that teaches us the value of giving back to our communities and standing together as a unified nation to do so through the mandatory ritual of serving for a year. And I strongly believe that as a Nigerian, I should serve others and not only myself, help where help is needed, carter for those less fortunate and in dire need. However, I don’t need the NYSC scheme to do these things. In a country where the government is seldom held accountable for the poor living conditions of its citizens, for the lack of medical or social services, effective basic amenities, and don’t even get me started on the ridiculous situation of NEPA (or it’s privatized ineffective substitute!), forgive me if I fail to see the point in “serving” for a year.
But wait o, before you go and talk say na me spoil market, abeg, let me make myself clear. I’m not saying it should be stopped altogether. I don’t know, maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t.
However, if it’s to continue, the scheme’s objectives should be revisited, modified and carried out better. We’re clearly not in 1973!(when it was established)
These are some of my thoughts, what are yours?