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Last week, Nigerian Bulletin rolled out an opinion poll on the issues corps members face during their one-year mandatory youth service. We received tons of reactions, especially from concerned youths, who are still undergoing the service. On a general note, we have been able to pare their reactions down to ten issues with the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC).
1. An Inconvenient Environment: It’s quite understandable that corps members are posted to environment that are different from the ones they are used to, but the inconvenience that underscores where corps members are camped is demeaning. This ranges from bad toilet facilities, to insufficient water supply. Corps members resort to defecating in nylon bags and throw them all around. For lack of water, corps members employ the services of local residents who fetch water for sale to wash and for other personal effects while the some give out their clothes to the dry cleaners on camp. Corps members don’t get to have their bath till late in the evening.
2. Poor Feeding/Feeding Ration: The food served in the cause of the 3-weeks camp is nothing to write home about. And this result in corps members being admitted at the camp clinic. Some others break down upon resumption at their Places of Primary Assignment (PPA). Corps members also complain that it has become normal and frustrating that food finishes while a good number of people are still on the queues, and the kitchen women disperse them with apology, remorse or a clear way forward. It thus appears that the kitchen cooks take a sizeable number of foods for themselves first before attending to corps members.
3. Oversized and sub-standard materials/kits: Many of the kits/items given at the orientation camp are sub-standard and rarely fit into size of the corps members meant for. In many cases, corps members end up exchanging kits with friends, whereas initial registration on NYSC portal recommends prospective corps members fill in their measurement and sizes for kits. Some others end up buying rubber ones outside camp. Also, there is the problem of different NYSC khaki uniforms. What’s worn in a state differs from what is worn in another. Could it be as a result of insufficient clothing materials, or different contractors? The answers hover in space.
4. PPA Hassles: Immediately after camp, Corps members are yet faced with another round of hassle locating where they have been posted to for their primary assignments. Some are being ‘thrown’ into remote villages where they have to spend all they have on transport fares. In many cases, some end up searching for their PPA all day. Not to even mention the risks attached.
5. Boring SAED Lectures: SAED Lectures are the most boring side of the 3-weeks camp. Corps members end up sleeping off for the long hours the lectures will hold. What’s responsible for this is the quality of facilitators being brought in for the training.
6. Irregularities in Posting/Dispatching Corps Members: So many irregularities mar the posting of corps members. While some corps members enjoy the ‘favour’ of being posted in good locations, others suffer fate by being posted in ‘volatile’ areas.
7. Tribalism, Nepotism among NYSC Officials: This is an issue that cannot be totally separated from a mixed setting like NYSC. This has been seen played in camps, and in NYSC local government secretariats. And this invariably affects so many things concerning the scheme.
8. The Fear of Rejection: This is one of the greatest challenges of being a Corps member. Being rejected by a PPA could mean so many things. It could mean that the Corps member is not qualified enough to be accepted or could mean that there are no more vacancies in such PPA, or such PPA (mostly schools) cannot accept a corps member because they don’t have a role/duty for him/her. In situations like this, there is the possibility of corps member taking up a duty that is against his interest or ability in order not to be rejected.
9. Insufficient PPAs: Especially in some busy and overcrowded states like Lagos, there are not just enough PPAs for corps members. In fact, NYSC ‘push out’ Corps members to scout for PPAs themselves. They are seen wandering the cities in their seven-over-seven khaki.
10. Corps Members on National Duties: This is the most risky and dangerous side (so to say) of being a Corps member. Aside their duties at their respective PPAs, mostly, corps members are used for National assignments. For instance, Elections, National Population Census. Though voluntary to participate in, these young people are exposed to all sorts of danger, especially during elections. The large scale violence visited on unarmed NYSC members used a polling booth officers showed that corps members have become regular victims of politicians’ lust and struggle for political power. Some of them have been brazenly killed by agents of politicians during elections.
These issues differ from one state to another, but at least one of them is experienced in a state.