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OPINION: “NYSC Should Not Be Scrapped” By Hilda ‘Adlih’ Chikelue

Photo Credit: Ugbede Ojo

The National Youth Service Corps was established on May 22, 1973, during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon, under Decree No. 24 of 1973 as a way of reconciling and reintegrating Nigerians after the civil war between July 6, 1967 and January 15, 1970 and also with a view to the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity.

Corps members are posted to states other than their state of origin where they are expected to mix with people from different ethnic groups, social and family backgrounds, and learn the culture of the indigenes in the location they are posted to.

In the course of the scheme, one can boldly say that all objectives of the scheme have been greatly achieved in diverse times and places ever since its inception.

Fast forward to the present times, there are agitations and calls to have the scheme scrapped. So one begins to wonder, if the government of today scraps NYSC, are there alternative measures put in place to productively engage the teeming graduates that leave the university every year? 

As one who has gone through the scheme and observed every of its rudiment, NYSC can be likened to a safe landing or middle ground between the university and the corporate or real world. It is pertinent to note that many communities are better developed because some kind-hearted Nigerian graduates who came in contact with them through the scheme decided to leave it better than they met it. 

The scheme has given special awards to outstanding corps members who go out of their way to do extraordinary things for their host communities. Some has given free legal aids to some prisoners in order to secure their freedom especially those who has been falsely accused and have little or no access to good legal aids, some has given free medical aids to members of their host communities, hence prolonging their life span, some engineers have used their skill and knowledge to construct infrastructures which are beneficial to the people and these structures are still standing till date. Some met their life partners, some met friends and good acquaintances who can be termed as ‘destiny helpers’, as a result of this same scheme, The list goes on and on.

On the part of the corps members, the impact of the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme both in camp and post camp, can never be overemphasized as many who came into the camp with little or no skill were presented with an opportunity to acquire one from the variety of skills offered by the programme at no extra cost to them. 

Some who put the skill(s) acquired to good use make true earnings from it and have become employers of labour. Many equally got life changing jobs. The monthly allowance which has helped so many in their startups play a vital role too. Many depended on it for their survival as not everyone is ‘highly connected’, has uncles or aunties abroad or multiple streams of income which they can rely on once they run low on cash.

Many saw first hand the way of life of certain ethnic groups, religious sects, cultures and traditions of places other than theirs, hence clearing all negative doubts, ignorance and stereotypes which they had prior to participating in the scheme.

The NYSC has numerous staff in all 36 states of the federation and the FCT, scrapping the scheme will only aid in increasing the unemployment rate in the country. One cannot ignore the fact that the scheme is a source of livelihood and has taken countless numbers off the labour market. A greater percentage of them are breadwinners. These people are those who ensure the smooth running and continuity of the scheme. The country is yet to tackle the present unemployment rate it is currently faced with alongside the ever increasing price of goods in the market today. 

The problem is not with the scheme. Take a critical look at how the scheme was designed to run in the course of the one year. From the camping activities where corps members are exposed to various skills, paramilitary training which can come in handy as a form of self defence in time of trouble, to having a place of primary assignment, to community development service, to the award of certificates after a successful completion, one can really see that the system was carefully crafted to benefit every single participant. We don’t take the bitter experience of a part and generalise it as the experience of the whole. Permit me to ask, when NYSC is scrapped,

Will the insecurity stop?

Will there be jobs for graduates?

Will companies employ without connection? 

Will the integration of the country improve?

Is NYSC the origin of all these problems listed above and will scrapping it solve these problems?

Does it mean that if a corps member travels to a state to serve, he is in danger but if another civilian travels to that same state, he is not in danger?

The NYSC teaches corps members issues on security and the scheme has also put measures in place to ensure the safety of every participant as both lives and properties is its top priority. If you say that because of Nigeria’s security situation NYSC should not hold, then we should also say Nigerians should not leave their houses, communities, villages, towns, and states.

Rather than scrap the scheme in all its entirety, there should be reformations in its programmes and activities in the course of the one year which will be more beneficial to the corps members not forgetting the staff too, in order to make it more productive. 

Greater attention should be paid to the entrepreneurship and skill development aspect. The world has gone digital, the programme can be reformed to meet growing trends in the fast paced developing world.

The monthly allowance can also be increased as the cost of living in major parts of the country have greatly increased and this can help some corps members have some savings after the end of the service year which they can really use to establish better things for themselves rather than wait for jobs which are not readily available, may take a long time to come or may never come at all.

Corps members can be posted to states with little or no security challenges.

A workable system should be put in place since serving one’s fatherland is a thing of total pride and joy just like the national anthem rightly says, “to serve our fatherland, with love and strength and faith………. To serve with heart and might……” 

 

Nigeria is ours, Nigeria we serve.

 

P.S. Opinion expressed in this article is solely that of the writer and not the brand, FicusTV.

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