In recent years, the National Youth Service Corps has become a source of intense debate. Many argue that it has overstayed its usefulness and become a sink of resources and waste of valuable post-graduation time of young impressionable Nigerians. Others believe it is an important opportunity for young Nigerians to step out of their artificial bubbles and experience other parts of the country, contribute their quota to national development and challenge their own long-held biases.
While I would prefer an overhaul of the program and its implementation methods, I also appreciate the value of finding diamond among stones like the story of youth corp member Stephen Teru, a story that serves as a reminder that good can come from the most flawed of ideas.
Primary education is constitutionally a Local Government responsibility in Nigeria, and renovations are usually hard to come by for many of these schools at the local government level. As a youth corp teacher, Stephen got to interact with the children and teenagers of Community Secondary School and St. George’s Primary school in Old Netim, he realised that many found it difficult to study in class or concentrate during lessons, because their school was in such disrepair. Identifying the lack of basic school furniture as one of the urgent needs of the pupils and students, Teru completely upended the misconception that to create tangible impact and change in any community you must have either access or wealth, having lived most of his life in the North of Nigeria, being in a new community and seeing a need, he chose to use skills he had acquired as a kid to provide a solution.
A skilled carpenter, Teru took permission from town elders to fell trees from the town and went to work, personally handcrafting furniture and shelving for more than 80 students in the school, an act which will be very useful in improving education outcomes.
Teru is an example that if we all contribute our quota to the country, we can make impact. Teru’s act of service might seem small in comparison to some of the people who were nominated for the YNaija Person of the Year List, but I believe his actions have changed the fortunes of a whole generation of children, children who have had their chances of a better life improved and that is always worth celebrating.