YNaija Editorial: The case against the NYSC

Societies must regularly examine their practices and determine if those practices should be continued, modified or scrapped. Many of these practices are a product of the times in which they were established, and may have become obsolete.

One example is the monthly environmental sanitation that has been in existence for decades. Every last Saturday of the month, no one is allowed to go anywhere from 7am to 10am because of the restriction of movement regarding the sanitation. The idea obviously is that if you are compulsorily at home, you will have no choice but to clean your surroundings.

This exercise was scrapped by the Lagos State Government a couple of weeks ago. According to them, the practice became outdated and needed to be replaced with something more in tune with the character of Lagos as a megacity. After all, what kind of megacity stops movement for 3 hours a month, for whatever reason?

That is how societies who wish to continue moving forward address their practices to bring them into the modern age. There are many such practices around us that should get the same treatment, but the one on the front burner is the NYSC.

The national youth service idea was the result of the civil war’s aftermath. That bloody war highlighted Nigeria’s divisions in ways that continued to this day, and the Gowon administration started the NYSC to foster national integration.

43 years later, Nigeria is no more united now than it was when the NYSC first started. In some ways, the country is more divided than ever, with many in government – who attended NYSC – using divisive rhetoric for political gain. There is no vision of a united Nigeria brought forward from any quarter.

Safety is also a huge problem. In 2011, a number of corps members lost their lives in post-election violence, with no one held to account for their safety. In the last one week, there have been three deaths in NYSC camps across the country, with no explanation for those deaths by the authorities. Ifedolapo Oladepo was not accurately diagnosed and treated, and her condition worsened, leading to her death. Her family still mourns, as do the families of Ukeme Monday and Elechi Chiyerom. They have been let down by an incompetent system that demands adherence to youth service, without putting in place measures to guarantee the well-being of those who show up.

For many, the NYSC is a distraction, taking them away from other opportunities for a year. That year is crucial for those at the start of their careers, time that could have been used getting a follow-up degree, learning a new skill or starting up a business.

Urgent reform of the NYSC is necessary. At the minimum, it should be made voluntary and no longer a compulsory requirement for graduates. Section 12 of the law setting up the NYSC should be amended considering this, freeing young people to do what they think is best with their time.

For those who still want to take part, youth service should be made more relevant, with a focus on acquisition of skills that can be used in the job market. Having fewer people should also see resources put under less strain.

The NYSC can also be scrapped entirely. There is no evidence that Nigeria will be any worse off without it, especially since it has failed to achieve its objectives. Insanity, as defined by Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

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