The Nigeria’s National youth service corps (NYSC) was established in 1973 with the aim of uniting the various ethnic groups and extinguishing the fire constantly ignited by ethnicity.
In 2009, over 4.7m of youths have participated in the programme. The system operates in a way that young graduates of various higher institutions are sent across the country for one year to serve in various agencies of both government and private. These youths from different ethnic groups and geo-political zones are interchanged. For instance, those from the north are sent to the south or east or west and vis-à-vis.
The idea is that they should have a fair knowledge of how the other sphere is and take everything that happens there as it were in their own zone, state, local government or community. During the service year, the government gives a little stipend to them for up-keep.
Arguments however came up recently around 2016, whether the system has actually net its purpose of uniting the country given to the spate of killings and kidnapping of corp members in the North and some parts of the South-east and South-south. This gave rise to the opinion by many that the system should be scraped. Some with the reason that it is a setback to them, while others considered it as a fun period for young graduates to explore their lives during their service year.
According to the NYSC Act, the requirements for participation is that you must be a graduate of a recognized higher institution fallen within the age bracket of 18-30 years. This means that not every graduate participates in the service. Those above 30 are deprived of the service year. But they are given an Exemption Letter, which also serves the purpose of the Discharge Certificate that is issued to the participants at the end of the service year, though they are not given the stipends given to the participants.
The question is, would NYSC consider the years students spend at home during strike? That brings us to the effect of the strike system on the NYSC exercise.
The Effect of Strike on NYSC
Over the years, strike as a regular episode has become part of the Nigerian system. There have been issues of strike usually organized by individuals and organized labour or groups to enforce their welfare as well as to get back at the government to ensure whatever position they reached at is/are implemented.
We can safely say that strike action in Nigerian is almost as old as the country. Every new regime gives reason for organized labour and organizations to embark on strike, which in all cases of the strike, the students are always the victims.
Currently, what has become like an anthem as a remote cause of strike in the educational sector is the “2009 Agreement” between federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities in Nigeria among other agreements reached between federal government and other similar relevant bodies like ASUP, NASUU, ASUC and so on.
Sometime in 2010 or 11, ASUU went on strike for over 7 months because the government was unable to implement the “2009 Agreement” and the students went home as the victims. From that time on, there have been a series of strike or warning strike from one or two of the above-mentioned groups which sometimes last for two weeks, one month, two months and so on. At some points, Nigerian Labour Congress will embark on their strike and students will still be the ones to be affected.
Currently, in February 2022, ASUU embarked on a warning strike that has lasted by extension for about four months now. Negotiations with the government have failed severally, and the government is even seeking to renegotiate with the Union but to no avail.
Just in the course of the negotiation, other academic Union bodies have embarked on strike, too.
Now, the student that was supposed to run a 3year program does that for 4 years or 5, the one for 4years does that for 5years or thereabout, the one for 5years does that for 6 or 7years because these bodies are striking at one point and the other.
In cases where a student who was supposed to graduates at age 29 or exactly 30 stays at home without doing his clearance because NASUU is on strike or that ASUU is on strike, what becomes of the person who had thought of going for service? What is NYSC body doing about such a situation?
When it comes to employment age, it is placed at 18-30-35years. What becomes of a person who was kept at home due to one strike and the other before graduation or that he stays for 10years after graduating at age 30 and stayed without a job. What is the ministry of labour, employment and productivity doing about that? What do we want the young people to do? What is the future we are preparing or painting for them?
If the government must get it right, a close look must be taken on education and certain laws in the country because they also are contributing to the falsification saga of certificates in the country.
- I want to call on the attention of the government to education. They should stop playing with the future of the youths by stretching academic unions into the regular striking.
- The age requirement for participation in the National Youth Service corps should be reviewed. A proposal of 30-35years is good from this writer’s perspective.
- Government should try to implement all policies and agreements reached at by educational bodies.
- Government should stop establishing schools since they cannot take care of the ones they have already.
- They should be a unified academic calendar for all higher institutions to run for 3-4month.
- Remember, the future is the youths, and the youths is the future.
About the author:
Amb. Egbe Mathew is a prolific writer, and a researcher with many published articles to his credit.