Dear Youth Corper of our Dear Nation Nigeria,
I really must congratulate you for going through school and getting to this point in your life. It is indeed a feat that many undergraduates look forward to.
So, here you are, ‘serving your nation’, in this mandatory stretch of a year and the possibilities of the experience is meant to impact your lives and that of those who come in contact with you during the period.
In the course of preparing to write this letter to you, I had to re-examine the youth service scheme all over again and consulted Wikipedia for a grasp of its original intention.
According to Wikipedia, The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is an organization set up by the Nigerian government to involve the country’s graduates in the development of the country…since 1973 graduates of universities and later polytechnics have been required to take part in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program for one year. This is known as national service year.
Please, note with me that the core objective of your service year is to ‘Develop the country’.
I read further down on the Wikipedia website and below is an addition to this:
“Corp” members are posted to cities far from their city of origin, although this posting has recently been marred with series of favouritism.
They are expected to mix with people of other tribes, social and family backgrounds, to learn the culture of the indigenes in the place they are posted to. This action is aimed at bringing about unity in the country and to help youths appreciate other ethnic groups.
Please also note that the reason for your service year aims to bring about ‘unity in the country’ as well.
Lastly, the definition on Wikipedia cited one merit to the program and said it has helped in creating entry-level jobs for many Nigerian youth.
With these three things in view, now, let’s delve into the NYSC program of our day and how we stand right now.
You see, I recall that back in my secondary education we had a few corpers serving the nation in my school. We had so much respect for them and this respect transcended on to every other corper I got to meet right before I got into the university.
Back then, corpers were seen as some sort of ‘aliens’ but were well respected and treated with so much regard. There is a particular female corper we had in our school that carried herself with so much dignity and had a lot of respect from amongst the staff and students of my school.
She was indeed a good representative of the program and her carriage and goodwill went a long way in developing our minds in the right direction. I recall enrolling in extra lessons with her and having her teach me and some friends some subjects we had difficulties in and even the one we didn’t have difficulties in. I personally ensured I was in her lesson classes.
Today, the headlines that we have come to see about corper-student relationships have been quite perturbing.
Sadly, we have seen such headlines like ‘SS1 Boy Impregnates Female Youth Corper’ and ‘Randy Male Corper who Impregnated 3 Female Students while serving in their school’.
These sad tales have obviously bothered more on sexual escapades which become scandals in a little time.
This brings me to the question, what are our corpers these days doing with their time during service year?
Do they think it is just a waste of their time and resolve to indulge in sexual activities with pupils, politicians, fellow corpers and whomsoever they see just to while away time or explore their sexuality in a place they think no one knows them?
The public narrative is that youth corpers are very promiscuous. People also warn spouses to be wary of the ‘camp’ as anything goes and ‘lays’ around there.
Permit me to point out that this trend was started by particular persons and is being subsequently adopted by serving corpers. It has given them a bad name and the once sterling reputation they had is not like it used to be.
Again, back to the question, what are our corpers doing with their time during their service year?
From the first thing pointed out, the program is supposed to aid the development of the nation. Yes, we have seen stories of corpers that embarked on projects that helped communities and from time to time, we get to see sign posts of what certain corpers did while serving.
Our corpers need to take this more seriously. I believe where we serve ought to be impacted by our presence and not contaminated by nefarious activities carried out while serving. If a corper can’t come up with developmental projects, atleast he/she should know well not to contaminate the minds and lives of the people he is supposed to help develop.
The second aim of the program is said to aid the bringing about of unity in the country. Nigeria has got too many tribal and ethnic divisions that breed disunity amongst us.
Of a truth, this has been one of the factors that cause our underdevelopment. It has made ethno-religious and community crisis hinder our true development as a nation and a people.
Many people have issues with a particular set of people because they have’nt gotten the chance of interacting with them or with the right persons from there.
The youth service program truly gives a chance for young Nigerians to be ambassadors of their tribes and ethnic groups and to also have first-hand experience with other ethnic groups in a way that might make them change the narrative about the people of the place they serve in.
This ofcourse will go a long way to eliminate prejudices and foster unity. Our corpers should have this at the back of their minds and ensure they serve knowing fully well that they are ambassadors of their places of origin and that whatever it is they do might and will be seen as a summary of their people.
Lastly, the NYSC program helps create entry-level jobs for graduates. This, I must say, is an advantage for the corper.
Besides the ‘allowee’ and loans a corper can obtain, the service year is a good time to gain some job experience and get a shot at prospective establishments a graduate would want to be employed in.
We have heard of graduates who got jobs that would never have been possible without the help of the program.
Indeed, the NYSC service year is a period that is supposed to be of impact on the nation through the efforts and input of our corpers.
Every corper must see his/her service year as a period of ambassadorship and thus uphold the ideals and aims of the program while serving.
If we lose sight of this, we not only cheat our nation but also ourselves and every other corper after us as what we do or not do during our service year either develops or under-develops the nation. It also casts a perception in the minds of people whenever they see another corper according to what the last corper they came in contact with did.
Dear corper, be an ambassador for the nation and also be an ambassador for the NYSC program. Nigeria and the NYSC vision is counting on you.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Philip ‘Asuquotes’ Asuquo is a frontline media and strategy consultant who believes that the African continent will be advanced by Africans through their intellect and committed endeavors. You can reach him via firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram via @Philasuquotes.