ALMOST after 40 years of its introduction, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, is yearly going through challenges that make people question its relevance. In the past, the major issue was many NYSC members not finding places for their secondary assignments after their discharge from the orientation camps.
More demanding issue of security of corps members have resulted in the calls for the cancellation of the scheme, which in 1973 was meant to re-capture national unity that had been battered by the civil war.
Some critics of the scheme call it a waste. Parties that use corps members as cheap labour will object to this position. None of these positions brought as much pressure to the scheme as the death of some corps members in riots in the North. There were claims that they were targets of the attacks.
Death of other corps members in Boko Haram attacks while on election duties in Suleja, Niger State and in Borno State have led parents to seek exemption for their children or ask that they are re-posted to safer parts of the country.
The appointment of Brig-Gen Nnamdi Okore-Affia as the Director General of the NYSC last October was a time many, riding on the emotions that the deaths of corps members elicited, were calling for the abrogation of the scheme. Okore-Affia wants to use the “data formula” initiative to link all corps members to the national secretariat of the NYSC in case of emergencies. Something that would delight corps members is the proposed training in entrepreneurship.
Far too much emphasis was placed on national integration, an objective that has seen limited success. The new direction is to prepare corps members for future leadership and align their orientation and skills to national priorities.
We support the intention to do a comprehensive reassessment of the current and future scope of the scheme relevant to national goals with a new winning model. The scheme has grown from a few thousand participants to an endeavour that requires annually mobilisation of nearly 300,000 young people.
The new NYSC must constantly search for new national opportunities and needs and deploy the army of young graduates to serve in these areas which are possible future careers in such new areas as entrepreneurs and employers of labour. Those areas abound. A key one is agriculture which has multiple opportunities that could also improve the rural areas where most Nigerians live. It also needs to increase its resource base.
The scheme creates opportunities that will give corps members a competitive start in life while intending corps members will look forward to the experience with zest rather than regard it as a waste of time.