During my one month recess given to me by my Editor in Chief, I saw the need to shed some light on the National Youth Service Scheme – NYSC.
In a bid to douse the mistrust that arose in the post civil war era, there was a need for a scheme that will enable cross-cultural meetings among the future elites. The solution was the creation of the National Youth Service Corps – NYSC by General Yakubu Gowon. The proponents of this idea saw the need for graduates to be interspersed to unfamiliar enclaves for a short period of about 12 months. The Objectives of the scheme was; to imbibe in them the spirit of loyalty and patriotism, cultural integration and essential skills acquisition. The scheme was to sustain the vision of the founding fathers of a country; where no man is oppressed, and where though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.
This turned out to be a brilliant assumption as the scheme helped strengthen the pegs that held the nation together. Many relationships that led to marriages were lit by this scheme, jobs were gained and there was cultural interaction between the about 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria.
43 years after its establishment, the scheme, like every other establishment that has lived this long need to be reviewed. Thanks to corps population explosion, insecurity, poor attitude of employers to corps members welfare and a host of other challenges; the scheme has lost its desired touch. Those who were lucky to participate in the scheme in its early years will attest to the fact that the scheme is far from what it used to be.
Unlike when National Youth Service Corps members were desperately sorted after, the rate of rejection of corps members by employers of labour is alarming. I say this not to degrade the employers of labour, but to underscore how cheap young graduates have been made to seem. University / HND graduates (who are level 8 officers by the Nigerian civil service standard) are mostly turned into messengers, clerks and cobweb cleaners.
Accommodation for corps members is now luxury especially in the city centres where lodges meant for corps members are overcrowded. To be realistic, most corps members are expected to carter for their accommodation. With the meager ‘allowee‘ corps members receive, I find this move more of a spiritual quest than a fiscal one. Little wonder why we find religious institutions providing ‘family houses’ for corps members.
Worthy of note is the security challenge that has besieged some parts of the nation. A challenge that has led those who have deep pockets and access to the top echelon ensure that their wards are sent to the juicy parts of the nation, leaving those ‘who don’t have ‘the connect’ to fate.
While the NYSC arm of the ministry of youth and sports should also be commended for good management of the scheme thus far, they should lay more emphasis on improving their organization as this have led to recent protests by some prospective corps members.
These numerous challenges have watered down the effect of the scheme. The government should reform the financial take home package of corps members. Emphasis should also be made for organizations and firms to reserve a certain percentage of their workforce for corps members. These young graduates need to gain tangible work experience, not just ballot counting or census experience. It is high time policy makers moved financial, infrastructural, and legislative reforms to salvage the scheme least it becomes an impediment to national development.