Is The NYSC Still Relevant In Today’s Society?

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?

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Liz Okoh is a content producer and writer who loves to travel, cook, listen to music, share her original healthy recipes, and talk about all things pertaining to natural hair. You're most likely to find her writing or in deep conversation about life and social change. Indulge in her fiction stories and lifestyle blog at sewafolie.com.
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Comments
  • Avatar
    Chris

    Hmmmm. … I sincerely believe the scheme is no longer relevant. If 45 years after the civil war, it hasn’t accomplished the goal of reorientation, enough for the scheme to be scrapped, we can as well say it has failed.
    I quite agree that many people feel joy in meeting people from other parts but you only need to be on Twitter for a day and you’ll discover that joy is only on the surface with the amount of ethnic trolling and abuse directed at various ethnic groups.

    People still hold on to their perceived prejudices regardless of what their experience(s) has been with people from other parts. If the scheme hasn’t corrected this in its loooonnng years of existent the to me it has overstayed.

    It’s only being kept alive by people who benefit from it: those who supply khaki, meals and so on.

    So please they should just end the scheme and save us from undue hardship all in the name of re-integration

    July 21, 2015
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      I totally share your views! All my points succinctly said in your comments.

      July 24, 2015
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      exactly point!!! this should be scrapped completely ormade optional!

      personally, i don’t want to go!

      December 31, 2016
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    Mr Nobody

    I am looking forward to NYSC. I just think it should be revised and restructured.
    Most of the things carried out are pointless like you mentioned.

    July 21, 2015
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      Interesting to hear you’re looking forward to it. What exactly are you looking forward to? The camp orientation experience or the service year itself?(genuinely want to know what your excited to experience, not being sarcastic)

      July 24, 2015
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    Michael

    I am currently serving in kogi and never would have thought I would be here,a complete city boy in a village that in itself is an experience however it does feel like a waste of time because I am not practicing what I studied, I should be in an IT company but instead I’m teaching computer science at a secondary school,I teach to the best of my abilities but I know I’m not that great of a teacher. The NYSC has great intentions and I suggest it continues but should be revised and modified to suit today’s needs.

    July 21, 2015
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      Your experience totally embodies my critique. You’re clearly not gaining the experience you hope to; and neither are you equipped to be teaching secondary school kids. Perhaps it does need to be revised for today’s society. Hopefully we as the future generation can begin to think and analyse the things and institutions in our societies to bring about positive change, not just following the status quo.

      July 24, 2015
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    Biola

    The 3 weeks of orientation is for paramilitary training. Hence, we are treated like soldiers. Soldiers lead a very regimented life. You are told when to do everything which is why the camp is run the way it is and why we are supervised by the military. I don’t know why they also have competitions but then again maybe it’s something done in the military too.

    July 21, 2015
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      Why do graduates need paramilitary training when they are not getting ready for the armed services or war? I understand your explanations for the reasons behind it, but that’s not the point. The point is, what does it have to do with graduates in their service year? After those 3 weeks, how does any of that apply to their lives or careers? What does it benefit in the short and long term?

      July 24, 2015
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    MPDchic

    I went to a military secondary school so I totally get d 3wks orientation including d lectures and competitions (I must clearly state dat I hate d speeches sha) and I resented NYSC till I served, I’m in my current profession cos of my service year, had 2 other corpers occupy d same roles I did n they felt it a “waste” of their training while I saw it as an opening and learning opportunity.
    Revise maybe (cos of d pay) but I feel if corpers are more open to the experience there is more to gain. There is a lesson to be learnt from every phase of life if only you r willing to learn.

    July 21, 2015
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      True, there’s always something to learn at every phase of life but at what cost? Especially if it’s made mandatory without your own free will. It’s great to hear that the NYSC has helped you personally but you’re one of the few I’m guessing and that’s not good enough for a population of millions.
      Also, more than just the pay would have to be revised. So many other things would need to be too.

      July 24, 2015
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    Estee

    Well I think it should be revised in the sense that during d 3weeks camp, skill acquisition should b made compulsory at least every corps member get to learn a skill, after which d federal allowee which is 19,800 should be summed up for 11months nd given to each corps member to establish d skill you av learnt. Thereby creating Entrepreneurs which we lack in dis lovely country of ours and creating labour. The 11 months of service year which is 80% teaching and 60% of corpers teaching, didn’t do any education course in school it’s a big flop coz most corps members dnt teach nd those who do dnt do it professionally esp in public schools so I see it as a waste of 11months doin nufin, nd taking unnecessary risk. E.g A particular village *namewithheld* in Ndokwa west of Delta State were jst one corps member is being sent der, and der is no form of civilisation dere nt evn a church or a mosque nd evry one dere has one jazz or d oda…to d extent a particular corps member tried to bring in a little bit of civilisation by opening a viewing centre nd a barbing saloon nd dey almost wasted his life b4 he ran for his dear life…nd we still call dis Service to Humanity….I REST MY CASE…From an aggrieved ex corps member, a potential graduate with top qualities nd an outstanding result yet been in d labour market for 2 nd half fruitless years to gain an employment.

    July 21, 2015
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      Oh dear Estee, I feel for you! This is what angers me about the whole NYSC thing. It isn’t for everybody and in some situation is a big security risk for the individuals. Like I said in the article, the service year seems like a prelude to delay unemployment that awaits most people.
      I hope you find strength and soldier on with life.

      July 24, 2015
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    Seyi

    I am currently serving in Lafia. I am lecturing in Nasarawa State Polytechnic and believe me, this is a waste of my time. Here they pay 19650 and no other support from home which means towards middle of the month we are already managing. Things are expensive here compared to my place, sometimes #500 difference which I believe is too much. It’s goal on improving inter-ethnic relationship is so not been met. Right from camp we’ve started hearing ethnic slurs and such, one tribe insulting the other based on what someone who has travelled told them. They are not ready to experience the people first hand and deduce their judgment, they just go on with their preconceived notions and crucify you based on that. You’ll get names like Yoruba girl (I did), get insulted in their language (some Yoruba guys insulated me and called me an harlot in Yoruba because they thought I am from Imo) for almost no provocation, you even get clusters of people from the same tribe and excluding others. So what exactly is it doing? This semester I haven’t been to the school because the lecturer only needs me to mark scripts, I would have taken a course like the previous semester but this class is bigggg and rowdy and I was exempted because of security reasons. The students can like to kill ehn and some told me they’ll bust my head. Biko on top how much?
    You either get over worked or under works, I prefer the under worked seriously. Poly can like to use person and they are only paying #500 instead of the #5500 they promised! Almost no extra job to get money and here they don’t retain o. To get job here needs strong connection, nepotism everywhere, and if you are not Hausa aha e get as e be o.
    I was learning fashion designing when I got mobilised, I took great risk and spent thousands to get my sewing machine here only to see that hardly do they have materials asides Ankara and I have to go to Kano for good materials. That I can’t do. The Ankara sef is expensive and most of them sell in bulk. How can I spend thousands on something I only want to use for training and on top which salary sef? The machine is just here giving me heartache every time I see it (which is a lot), I wasted money brink it down, it got damaged in Nipost’s care and I’ll still send it back with money o not free with the possibility for it might be damaged.
    It would be been better to be home, get a job (or still be searching) or go for masters cos at the end of the day one will be back to square one. I met someone in the market that just got a job marketing for a bank two years after service. Said she gets paid based on the number of customers she gets. It would have been better to have travelled the world or Nigeria (for us that don’t have money like that) and chronicle my experience than what I am doing now. I planned on foregoing it initially until the parents got scared and said one should do it once and for all cos companies require discharge certificate. The only good thing I got from it is that I can write one year experience in my CV, at least I can defend mine some can’t but it sha don enter am.
    I’ll prefer it to be abolished but it won’t, it’s cheaper for the government. Almost free workers, avenue to embezzle, and also delay us from joining the unemployed. #whew long comment

    July 22, 2015
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      OMG Seyi! Thanks for the long comment(lol) It’s crazy what you’ve said and I totally understand your grievances. It’s such a shame that you couldn’t do what you truly wanted to do(fashion designing). A shame indeed and why I was so passionate about writing this. The NYSC is not for everyone and shouldn’t be levied on all. Like come on, it was established in the age where it seemed necessary but that’s no longer the case so why does it have to continue. It’s not helping most people and causes more harm than good.
      I’ll suggest you never short change yourself again and do what you truly feel you’re meant to be doing. Finish your training and establish your own fashion company/label. Create your own job so you’re not back to the job market and unemployed.
      It sad to hear about the discrimination you’ve experienced as well. Hopefully, with more people speaking out and more enlightenment about stereotypes we can begin to uproot the prejudices that befalls people from different tribes.

      July 24, 2015
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    Chinedov

    I’m currently serving in Cross River State and the only thing I hold against NYSC is for posting me to a Nursery & Primary school. How exactly do you expect me to forgive such degradation?

    I for one don’t see the scheme as irrelevant. I remember the loads of friends I made back at camp and how I multilingually united a Hall divided by language barriers. I even learned a little bit of Efik, too.

    It felt good getting everyone to laugh to a joke delivered in Igbo and conducting all those “Rap Battles” we did before the evening parades. Gosh!

    The only thing I think should be done to make it a little more effective and not a total waste of 12 months is to post people where they can be more effective. I had my hallmate (who’s a Civil Engineering graduate) also posted to a Nursery school.

    A Computer Scientist in a Nur & Pry. School, I understand – but a Civil Engineer? Hell no!

    July 23, 2015
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      Hello Chinedov, it’s great to hear the programme has helped you in some way and that you were able to unite people in doing so. But the NYSC should be more than making friends and cracking jokes. Long term benefits should be evident.
      Like you said, posting a Civil engineer to a primary school does no good for him nor the children he’s been sent to teach.
      I don’t agree with you talking about degradation because you were sent to a primary school though. If anything, being posted to teach young children should be a honour. They are at a delicate stage and need all the love, care, and solid foundation that may very well dictate the rest of their lives, so please don’t see that as a degradation. Teaching at Primary school level doesn’t mean you are not intelligent or smart enough.
      All the best.

      July 24, 2015
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        Seyi

        I agree with you. You can meet friends anywhere and crack jokes etc. You can be in a situation where you have to motivate people to work elsewhere. It’s not peculiar to Nysc. You can learn languages without Nysc’s avenue. Aiesec (Google it) has more benefits than Nysc. It gave my sister different chances to travel to different countries, meet people from all over the world, learn languages and other areas of culture while still working in a relevant field with good accommodation and pay. Her CV is so full and she has things up stairs to show for it. Not posted to ministries of no work among others.

        July 24, 2015
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    Well said, Liz!!

    July 24, 2015
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      Thanks Tola 🙂

      July 24, 2015
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    comfort

    Talkn about d Allawee… dt wud take anoda decade for gov to consider increase in Allawee. Now d gov has sed dt doz who are unable to get a job after d national service wil b paid 5k/month. How far cn dt go? Even d Gov in Ghana pay dier Youth Corpers more

    August 4, 2015
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