NYSC As National Disservice -By Chukwuemerie Uduchukwu

Filed under: National Issues |

troubled corpers member in a far away land

 

For Nigeria to achieve lasting unity, the government should abolish the state of origin provisions in our foundational documents as a country and replace this with provisions on states of residence, so that every Nigerian will feel at home wherever he or she lives in, which will also empower every citizen to participate fully in all activities within his or her area of residence. If this is not done then the ethnic mindset will be linger in the hearts of citizens, no matter what respite the NYSC scheme seeks to effect.

In a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild Nigeria after the civil war, the federal military government headed by General Yakubu Gowon on May 22, 1973 through decree No. 24, established the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). According to the decree, the main purpose of the NYSC is to promote and encourage the development of ties among the youths of Nigeria and for the enhancement of national unity. Since its establishment, all graduates of universities and later polytechnics have been required to take part in the scheme. Its discharge or sometimes exemption certificates are usually part of the compulsory requirements for employment, especially in government establishments across Nigeria. Also, graduates are usually posted to states far from their original socio-cultural environment to participate in the scheme.

The Gowon-led military government should be commended for the spirit and urge towards national unity that led to the establishment of the scheme. However, every programme of government should have maximum impact on the lives of citizens. Although through the programme many graduates have been privileged to live with and interact with people of other nationalities and religions in the country, yet it has failed to motivate its corps members to adapt effectively in a country that is massively overwhelmed by unemployment and poverty. Most of the graduates that participate in the scheme usually return home with little or no hope of survival after spending a year in ‘service’ to their fatherland.

Also, there is no practical evidence showing that our unity had been strengthened through the scheme. It is a fact that many participants in the scheme pray for a quick running out of the service year so that they can reunite with their families. While it is difficult to see a corps member that prefers to work in his or her area of assignment after the service year, it is also hard to see a corps member who marries an indigene of his or her area of assignment, making it difficult to assess the success of the scheme in promoting national unity and integration. I generally avoid discussing how the scheme has, in a number of cases, led to regret and mourning in families which their participating sons and daughters were murdered by militants, as happened in 2011.

It will not be an overstatement to say that the mismatched teaching activities of corps members are a large part of the growing decline in Nigerian students’ performances in external examinations, such as the Senior School Certificate Examinations coordinated by the West African Examinations Council and that of the National Examinations Council. This has led to massive and shameful failure of students in key subjects, and in such situations its difficult to blame the students but the system that forced corps members on them.

It is quite unfortunate that very many corps members are usually assigned duties that are outside their areas of educational discipline. In fact, a majority of corps members who never had training in teaching are forced to teach secondary school students and to make things worse, they are assigned subjects that they know little or next to nothing about. For example, some corps members who are graduates of political science are assigned to teach subjects like mathematics, physics or chemistry, while other from engineering disciplines are assigned subjects like civic education, economics or English language, which they may know little about. It will not be an overstatement to say that the mismatched teaching activities of corps members are a large part of the growing decline in Nigerian students’ performances in external examinations, such as the Senior School Certificate Examinations coordinated by the West African Examinations Council and that of the National Examinations Council. This has led to massive and shameful failure of students in key subjects, and in such situations its difficult to blame the students but the system that forced corps members on them.

It is safe to admit that the NYSC cannot achieve the aims of its establishment. The scheme will rather continue to waste resources that should be channeled to programmes that will motivate and empower graduates. Government should, as a matter of urgency, make entrepreneurship a compulsory course in all departments of higher institutions. After that, the NYSC should be integrated into the ministry of labour and productivity, and the total funds usually budgeted to pay monthly allowances to corps members shared out to all graduates to empower them in starting their own private businesses or establishments which will certainly turn them into employers of labour, rather than join the army of elusive white collar job seekers. If each graduate receives about N240,000, which is the likely total sum of the monthly allowances he or she would have received from the NYSC scheme in a year, from the federal government, to engage in the entrepreneurship studied in school; though little, such money will go a long way in motivating the beneficiaries to be self-reliant, while also becoming employers of labour. This will be of more benefit to a graduate than in receiving monthly stipends that are barely enough for feeding and other personal expenses within a month.

The overwhelming of its positive design by negative outcomes has shown that NYSC is not beneficial to most Nigerians and our economy.

For Nigeria to achieve lasting unity, the government should abolish the state of origin provisions in our foundational documents as a country and replace this with provisions on states of residence, so that every Nigerian will feel at home wherever he or she lives in, which will also empower every citizen to participate fully in all activities within his or her area of residence. If this is not done then the ethnic mindset will be linger in the hearts of citizens, no matter what respite the NYSC scheme seeks to effect.

The overwhelming of its positive design by negative outcomes has shown that NYSC is not beneficial to most Nigerians and our economy. It is a disservice that should be discouraged.

Chukwuemerie Uduchukwu writes from Awka.

 

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