It is debatable if the national youth service scheme- a project designed by the Nigerian government nearly twenty five years ago to empower young Nigerian graduates with a sense of nationalism and pride-is meeting its set objectives. One of the project’s main aims was to make young Nigerian graduates learn the culture and ways of other parts of the country unfamiliar to the participant by posting them to these places.
The early participants of the programme in the 1970’s and 80’s often recall with nostalgia their experiences throughout the one year programme which eventually became mandatory for all graduates below the age of 30. The gains of the programme were immense, beside the socio-cultural exposure; participants were indoctrinated into the ideals of good working ethics. Also a number of graduates who excelled received national honors and quite a number were retained in their places of assignment. Their families with a sense of pride glowed at the resplendent sight of their wards in the brown khaki caps and pants with the white NYSC inscribed vests march in military precision down the parade ground during the corpers induction and passing-out.
But today, the story is totally different. A Large number of corps members view the scheme as a sheer waste of time due to the fact that more than 75% of them are made to teach in primary or secondary schools in rural areas where there are no basic infrastructure, no electricity, no telecommunication, no adequate water supply and even the accommodation given to some of the corps members is better imagined than seen. Though they are not expected to dwell in luxurious homes, I strongly believe that they need to be comfortable so they can serve their fatherland with some degree of dignity.
So where did it all go wrong? Redeployment which used to be a rather complex process is fast becoming the easiest way out of avoiding being sent to a remote part of the country; with the right connection ‘thy command becomes thy wish’ , corpers fraudulently doctor medical reports to avoid taking part in the physicals, even marriage certificates so they can redeploy to their choice locations. The most amazing thing is that a great number of the graduates don’t show up at their places of primary assignment instead in a clandestine arrangement with errant supervisors are paid off to be quiet; the dubious corps member however returns at the end of the programme to pick up his/her certificate after 11 months in hiding.
The big question then is why bother then with the scheme, the answer lies in a nation’s craze behind CERTIFICATES ; as longer as you have the NYSC certificate, it is your visa to a job. Getting it right means deemphasizing the ‘obtaining a certificate -at- all- costs culture’. Some have even argued that making the scheme non- compulsory would help reduce the heavy expenditure the government bears just in conducting a programme that is quickly becoming obsolete.