If you graduated from a university in Nigeria in the last 30 years, chances are you registered and completed the compulsory 1-year National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) programme afterwards. The NYSC scheme created in 1973 by the Nigerian government was established for “…the proper encouragement and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”.
The objectives of the scheme include: contribution to the accelerated growth of the national economy; development of common ties among the Nigerian youths and promotion of national unity and integration; developing, in the Nigerian youths, the attitudes of mind (acquired through shared experience and suitable training) which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest; enabling Nigerian youths acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self- employment; and more.
Basically, the NYSC has since been on ground to to involve the country’s graduates in the development of the country. Fresh graduates under 30, referred to as Corps members, are posted to cities far from their city of origin to serve. First, they undertake a 3-week long orientation course in a military controlled boot “camp”, engaging in physical training, taking professional lectures and going through skill acquisition training; then they are deployed to their place of primary assignment where they will work for the duration of 11 months. Initially, these postings would take into consideration the educational qualification of the corp members. For instance a graduate of medicine will be sent into the healthcare sector, and a journalist would be sent to a media house; but, now most are just sent to schools to teach. While the corps members are working, they are expected to engage in the Community Development Service (CDS) programme which entails weekly meetings towards completing projects in their host communities that will positively impact its inhabitants. After the 11 months, a “passing out ceremony” is held, followed by one month of vacation, and the corp member is free to get on with his/her life.
Clearly, the structure of the NYSC is one that was well thought-out and planned. However, in all the years it has been in operation, it appears the objectives are yet to be achieved, especially the one geared towards the development of common ties among the Nigerian youths and promotion of national unity and integration. If anything, Nigerians are more divided today than when the NYSC was introduced. We have witnessed the rise of Nnamdi Kanu (who is keen on rekindling the Biafra fires), Boko Haram, Niger-Delta militants, Arewa youths and many more in the last years. It is a clear indication that Nigeria is far from united. Quite a number Nigerian youths in the scheme have no idea of national unity. Of course, inter-tribal marriages exist, but tribal prejudices are still very strong in Nigeria.
Besides this, there are other negatives to the scheme to consider. The program seems to be a channel for corruption, as many corps members now bribe their way through anything (posting, attendance, etc). NYSC officials on the other hand now extort students, asking them to make certain illegal payments in order to get their certificates.
There is also, the fact that the government now prefers to augment staff strength of schools with corps members instead of direct employment. This is unfortunate, as not all these corp members are competent to teach. Young Nigerians are then forced to endure sub-standard teaching and they end up with poor education.
Even more, the scheme seems to be a waste of Nigeria’s resources. There is no concrete data to show that Nigeria’s economy has improved since the programmes was launched; instead the economy is still reeling from a recession and the government is pressure to sustain the programme.
It appears we have only one question left to ask. Considering the fact that the NYSC scheme has failed to achieve any of its objectives, has still not been able to strengthen Nigerian citizenship and does not improve the young graduate’s life in any substantial way, why is our government still insistent on running the programme? Also, why is it still compulsory for these young graduates?