On April 12, Batch A, Stream 1 corps members of the National Youth Service Corps in FCT, Abuja completed their year of service. I was part of the batch that has completed the NYSC program. As NYSC has come to a conclusion, I can’t help but reflect on the experience and express why I have mixed feelings about Nigeria’s NYSC program.
Why NYSC is Beneficial and Important
On one hand, I can see the benefits of the service year. It allows graduates opportunities to obtain work experience if they didn’t have prior to this. This is done through the PPA (Place of Primary Assignment). I’m grateful that I could obtain and get some experience at Nigerian Television Authority because it was my first experience at a media station. My prior work experience was having a position and internship roles with an NGO. But because I studied English Literature with a minor in Journalism at the university, it was therefore worth it for me to be at a media station. It helped me to confirm whether or not I see myself in a media environment. I was able to assist producers on shoots. I was able to use my voice for recordings. I also had the opportunity to gain exposure through presenting.
As for the CDS (Community Development Service), I was in the Agro-Allied group. This CDS group comprised of us utilizing skills to make products and thus teach others in the group. Individuals in the group were able to present some interesting products such as making Ankara books, cover mats and food items used for cooking such as carrot oil. This was all made out of scratch. It was interesting to be able to learn practical skills.
Integration into Nigerian Culture and Society
My first year back in Nigeria was mostly about NYSC. It helped me to integrate back into Nigeria’s society because, through it, I was able to meet others and form friendships. Also, I learned from other Nigerian graduates about their thoughts and perspectives on the condition of our country.
In addition, through my experience interacting with others, it helped me get a better sense of what people value here. One of those things is respect and submission to those that are above you. This happens through greeting and taking orders from your superiors.
Another thing, I can tell how culture and tribe places a huge role in the country because it determines the group you fall into and your interactions. I am Igbo but people often think I’m a northerner and I notice that mostly Hausa people approached me during the NYSC orientation. They thought I was part of their tribe until they heard me speak or noticed my name lol Regardless, I still got along well with them. It’s my nature to be open and interact with a lot of people so I have friends of different tribes and religion. However, because people say I look like I’m from the north, it affects how they see me. I was actually told that I should just learn Hausa which would be an advantage. This made me really question and understand how people see different tribal groups and who holds power and influence in the country.
The Difficulties and Challenges NYSC Produces
As I was heading back home from the NYSC ceremony, I stopped at a business center to make copies of my certificate. While there, I got into an interesting discussion with a lecturer. I told him that I wasn’t sure whether NYSC was completely useful because I understand from conversations that most people have challenges with what to do after it ends. He told me that during the time that he served, he had four job offers as he was leaving the service. He said that these days that the economy is hard. That, the Nigerians that are in the workforce are not willing to exist and retire for the young graduates to come in. I think that is one of the challenges that NYSC poses. After one year of serving the country, the corps members are left in a society where there are not a lot of opportunities nor enough resources for them to be fully integrated and make a source of living. I believe that at the end of the day, having a certain status in our society and being well connected is what will give you an upper edge after NYSC.
Another challenge with NYSC is that of the PPA (Place of Primary Assignment.) Though I was fortunate to be at NTA, not every corps member is placed in a location where they can utilize their skills and services. I understand that the aim of NYSC is for graduates to be of service but often times, the PPA determines the level of productivity and impact that someone can make. I’ve heard some say that their PPA was time wasted because they didn’t get to do anything. So they looked forward to leaving. I can attest that corps members don’t always get to make an impact because I’ve seen employers use some for errand roles. Their role then becomes that of the errand boy or girl.
The Lack of Organizational Structure
When I was coming to NYSC through orientation and later leaving through the “passing out/completion” ceremony, I noticed things about the lack of organization. For those that stayed the three weeks in camp, you’ll know that there were certainly challenges with the way the hostels were maintained and the number of people occupying the rooms.
As for the completion, when picking up the certificates, I would have assumed that there would be some more organization in addition to the location by code number. However, corps members were jam-packed in a group. Everyone was struggling to get to the front to pick up a certificate while we were outside under the sun. As far as the schedule for the closing ceremony, that was not provided. People were waiting and wondering when they would pick up the certificate after the parade.
In all, as I stated before, my feelings about NYSC are mixed. I do believe in the idea and the experience. However, I think steps should be taken so it is better implemented. Have you gone through Nigeria’s NYSC? What do you think about the service year?