By Murtala Musa
ON May 17, 2021, National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, orientation camps re-opened across the country. The NYSC continues to remain one of Nigeria’s leading schemes aimed at fostering unity, harmony and an appreciation for our Fatherland.
The NYSC has been threatened by the Covid-19 global health pandemic as we witnessed a few unfortunate incidents a few months ago which were only nipped in the bud by the proactive leadership of the new DG of NYSC, Brigadier General Ibrahim Shuaibu.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the NYSC orientation calendar as its management had proactively shut down orientation camps with the hope of preventing further transmission of the disease. The closure of the camps on March 18, 2020 affected the orientation of the 2020 Batch A Stream 1, and subsequent batches across the 37 centers in the country.
The Victims Support Fund chaired by Gen. TY Danjuma [RTD], through its Emergency Task Force on COVID-19 has been engaging in a series of interventions across multiple sectors since last year to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations.
As part of the NYSC scheme’s design, qualified young Nigerians are assembled in camps across the country for a three-week orientation programme and those sorts of gatherings pose the threats of community transmission of Coronavirus.
How then could we have ensured that the Youth Service scheme was not disrupted further especially as the country tries to implement strategies to return different sectors to some semblance of normalcy? Already, educational institutions had re-opened and new batches of graduates were already exiting the gates of tertiary institutions.
On May 17, 2021, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced that it had been able to test about 2 million Nigerians since the pandemic broke out. With a population of over 200 million, Nigeria has only tested one percent of that number.
“With a high population density environment (orientation camps) across the country, the VSF COVID-19 Taskforce considered Youth Corpers as one of the critical demographics in the fight against COVID-19, hence, its decision to support the safe re-opening of NYSC Orientation Camps across Nigeria with the donation of 60,000
Rapid Test Kits. “The main objective for this donation is to strengthen infection prevention control in NYSC camps and promptly identify outbreaks of COVID-19 in camps for treatment”, Mrs. Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, the Chairperson of the VSF’s Task Force on COVID-19 said, while explaining the rationale behind the VSF’s decision to support the NYSC with ramping up Testing Nationwide.
NYSC was already staring down the barrel of a two-year suspension as proposed by the Federal Government. On June 16, 2020, it was reported that the Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC), led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, recommended the suspension of NYSC’s orientation camp exercises for two years.
“The VSF COVID-19 Task Force in its wisdom, thought donating these kits to the scheme is a very important initiative, as it will diversify the way testing is done in Nigeriaespecially one that can delivers results within a short period of time, with a high degree of accuracy, and specificity,because many hospitals have been refusing to treat patients without COVID-19 results,” Akerele-Ogunsiji further added.
Professor Nana Tanko, the VSF Executive Director said that the donation to the NYSC was made through the Presidential Steering Committee on April 27, 2021 and total cost of the test kits was N210 Million Naira and is the single the largest donation of test kits to the Federal Government by any organisation since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Director General of the NYSC, Brigadier General Ibrahim Shuaib demonstrating palpable excitement while receiving the Test kits acknowledged that all our brothers, and sisters deployed in villages and remote areas for their mandatory one-year National Youth Service Program, can be conveniently tested through arapid diagnostic test (RDTs), as approved for use in specific settings by WHO, to screen members of every NYSC orientation camp community as resumption commences. It is worthy to note that Nigeria has Africa’s largest population and has tested only about 2,000,000 people.
“It is therefore, expected that these donations, which come at no cost to the beneficiaries would support the ongoing efforts of the government in scaling up the overall testing capacity, with a view to identifying, isolating and treating positive cases, and ultimately reducing community-to-community transmission of the pandemic across the country,” he said.
THE VSF COVID Task Force says an effective monitoring and evaluation system has been developed to ensure that this, as with all other VSF COVID-19 interventions are being implemented strictly in tandem with laid down protocols. For the COVID test kits, this translates to a process that involves the NCDC, VSF Monitoring,
Evaluation and Learning (MEAL) Officer, in conjunction with State NYSC officials, State Ministries of Health, and other relevant stakeholders. Their joint responsibility is to implement plans to carry out a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation exercise across the NYSC camps in their respective states for robust data collection and reporting during the orientation period to ensure a proper coordination and impact assessment of the use of the test kits.
•Musa, a civil servant, wrote from Wuse 2, Abuja