New Telegraph

Positioning NYSC to be more effective and to serve Nigeria better

It has been 55 years since Nigeria fought a brutal civil with its devastating consequences. As part of efforts to reconcile and build back one indissoluble nation, the then Military Government headed by General Yakubu Gowon promulgated Decree 24 of 1973 which established the National Youth Service scheme mainly for graduates from the universities.

The purpose of the scheme was to encourage and develop common ties among the youths, and to promote national integration and national unity. The NYSC scheme as envisioned by Gowon was laudable and has continued to stay and to a large extent accomplished its original mission. However, the only thing inevitable in life is change and time has changed hence the scheme must undergo changes to remain relevant and to meet the needs of the changing times and adapt to new realities. For instance, when the scheme was established , there were a handful of universities with very few graduates who were easily absorbed into the civil service as soon as they complete their national assignment.

Then the scheme had adequate funding and facilities to cope with. Now a lot has happened due to explosion of universities and population of graduates forcing the scheme to adopt batch deployments. Sadly, most of the graduates are unemployable because they lack knowledge and technical skills required to fit into the new and expanding economy.

It’s doubtful whether the same scheme established by Gen. Gowon in 1973 still has adapted to changing times. Some people had called for it be scrapped while some others have urged for it to be reformed to make it serve Nigeria better. I think rather than scrap the scheme, the scheme should be reformed so as to close the gap in our education system. The Scheme in my view should be extended for a minimum of two years during which time irrespective of the field of one’s study, the participants should be able to acquire survival skills that can make them either employable or self- reliant. It’s regrettable that Nigeria has been producing over 370,000 graduates every year with no skills but just certificates to show.

They youths come out of schools, proud of their certificates but when they look for employment, they discover there are no jobs or they are not employable in places where jobs are available. They discover that without preparation for the second phase of life which is skill acquisition, their certificates are worthless. There are many skills Nigerians’ graduates should acquire as part of their NYSC programme: food processing, food preservation, food production, farming, sewing, fashion, technicians, nursing assistants, secretary, repairman, reporter, laboratory work, construction work, photography, mechanized agriculture, business operation, exports of Nigeria goods etc.

Because most of our old businesses such as NEPA, NITEL, PAN and Mercedes assembly plants., textiles industries where many Nigerians graduates were previously absorbed have been privatized or closed, many Nigerians think that Nigeria’s good days are behind us, and there is no hope for the country. Some die hard pessimistic believe that Nigerian is dead already. Nigerian is not dead, and the best days lies in the future. NYSC presents that hope that a greater Nigeria that will be a semi industrial society is possible only if our policy makers will have the will to go back to the drawing board and remodel the scheme.

This is no rocket science: Many nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, India, are preparing their youths for now and the future, resetting their education and volunteer schemes to serve useful purposes. I understand that NYSC has mulled the idea of including skills acquisition as part of its programme.

The snag is that only few graduates who can afford to pay for the skill acquisition training benefit while over 90% are left out. This ought not to be so. The NYSC skills acquisition skill should be expanded and made mandatory for all graduates.

For the period of their service year, the corps members are the properties of the Federal Government, therefore preparing them for life after the service year should be the priority and responsibility of the government. If NYSC scheme is restructured as I suppose it should with one year or two years mandatory skills acquisition training, Nigerians will in a short time become a nation with new a generation of citizens who are not only educated but possess necessary skills in different fields of endeavor.

Some will even own their own business and become employers of labor thereby curbing unemployment rate and generating more taxes for government. More so. the world has become a global village where talent and innovations thrive. Through the internet, our youths can get jobs in different fields such as Information Technology and Artificial Intelligence without leaving our shores. Unfortunately, most of the youths leaving Nigeria to foreign countries are without skills and they end up becoming nuisance to their host countries It’s unfortunate that we have jobs in abundance in Nigeria without skilled workmen.

Most of the skilled workmen in our building and construction sector are foreigners from either, China, Asia, Lebanon and other neighboring African countries. In many of communities it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eyes of a needle than to find a skilled workman in any endeavor. If you need electrician or plumber, there is none.

The old plumbers or repairers had either died or retired with no replacement. I once recommended a Filipino friend to work at Brains and Harmer Real Estate Development in Abuja as a construction supervisor. He spent one year in Nigeria. Upon his return back to the US, he complained that Nigerians have no skills, that the depend on foreigners to do what they could do for themselves. No wonder in all parts of Nigeria’s today, one sees young people from Togo, Senegal, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire as artisans. They could do stucco, install tiles, install all kinds of electrical and other structural work for Nigeria customers.

But what of Nigeria’s youths? They complain there is no work in Nigeria, meanwhile works abound except that they lack the skills. President Muhammadu Buhari has done well by initiating several infrastructure developments but who are the workmen engaged in these projects? A post Buhari president must be such that will inspire the country and its people to greatness. We must elect a new generation of visionary leaders who will act like General Gowon or Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe whose attitudes were a greater love for Nigeria and less with their tribes, to bring Nigeria tribes together and work towards greater skills acquisition for our youths. Without jobs for our army of youths, we are sitting on a time bomb. I believe in my heart that here is hope for Nigeria and I see a lot of potentials in us. It’s never too late to make corrections and reset Nigeria on the path of greatness. When our population becomes productive, when all their energy is put to work in different fields of endeavors, and when Nigerians produce things they need and import less , Nigeria will be setting an economic wave which will vibrate all across the nation.

Innocent Obiora writes from New York , USA . Email: Innoobiorah@ gmail

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