by Franklin Onwubiko.
Graduates of tertiary institutions have called for the scrapping of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), following a leaked memo urging schools’ managements to reduce the number of participants in the scheme from 2,314 to 894 per school, because of “tight budget”. Prospective Corps members no longer see the need to keep the scheme. They, therefore, urge the government to scrap it. FRANKLIN ONWUBIKO reports.
Graduates of tertiary institutions going for the National Youth Service will no longer be automatically mobilised for the scheme by the Directorate of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). According to a new policy, prospective Corps members will need to go through voting before they can participate in the one-year compulsory service.
No thanks to the wind of recession blowing across the country. This directive has re-echoed the call for the scrapping of the scheme, which was created by the Federal Government 43 years ago to foster inter-ethnic relationships.
CAMPUSLIFE learnt that the management of the NYSC, a few days ago, secretly wrote to higher institutions to slash the number of prospective Corps members, who are supposed to be mobilised for Batch B 2016, citing “tight budgetary allocation” to the scheme.
When the rumour filtered in, not many believed it until NYSC’s memo to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) in Awka, Anambra State, leaked. It was learnt that many tertiary institutions got the memo to reduce the number of graduates to be mobilised for the scheme from 2,314 to 894.
To work with the new quota, CAMPUSLIFE gathered that the management of UNIZIK summoned Heads of Departments and introduced a balloting system to enable them pick graduates across faculties. The development sparked anger on the campus last week, with many graduates, who were awaiting mobilisation, expressing frustration.
For higher institutions that have backlogs of students to be mobilised for the scheme, the NYSC’s directive may create a crisis because fresh graduates may have to wait for another two years to undergo the youth service.
Last month, the NYSC Media and Publicity Director, Bose Aderibigbe, confirmed that the scheme was in need of funds to sustain its operations.
Aderibigbe hinted that N10,500 budgeted by the Federal Government for Corp members’ kits was no longer enough.
She said: “This year, for instance, since the Federal Government does not want a situation where youths, who are done with tertiary education to hang out longer than necessary before having their chance to serve. We were given a quota of 260,000 Corps members to mobilise.
“So far, we are left with about 70,000. Once the present batch leaves in October, the outstanding number will be mobilised. This is not a hopeless situation as many people are made to believe. It should be noted that once the government gives us the figure to mobilise for a particular year, they back it up with funds to take care of that number.
“We are in need of a lot of funds to ease our operations, but we will continue to cry to the government until the situation improves.”
With the recession squeezing the nation harder and allocations to the NYSC directorate dwindling, Corps members said the N19,500 monthly allowance they are being paid was not enough to cater for their accommodation and transport.
To the prospective Corps members, the move by the NYSC directorate to slash participants’ quota has raised questions about the relevance of the scheme. They contended that since the government did not have the resources to fund the scheme, it would be reasonable to scrap it.
Chike Okonkwo, a prospective Corps member, said the scheme should either be scrapped or suspended till the government has money to fund it.
He said: “Many graduates would be rendered lazy by this new development. My candid advice to the government is to either scrap the scheme or suspend it till the economy bounces back. It would be bad to make students wait for years before they go for the National Youth Service. I can tell you, many graduates are not interested in the programme. So, keeping them waiting for years is improper.”
Chima Nkwonta, a graduate of Biochemistry, decried the development, saying it would only be in favour of a few privileged students.
His words: “This issue of balloting will only favour the children of the rich. There is no way it would not be rigged against graduates who are supposed to be picked on merit. I don’t even know which method schools would use to pick people when the quota has been reduced. But, there is no way the selected method would not be corrupted. I don’t even see the need for the youth service any longer. They should simply scrap the programme and the funds being wasted on the programme can be consolidated and paid to graduates to engage themselves in small businesses.”
Chukwuemerie Uduchukwu, a graduate, said: “If it is true that NYSC cannot adequately fund its activities, let the government scrap the programme and use the money paid as monthly allowance to give incentive to every graduate. This would encourage graduates to start small-scale businesses, rather than waste time waiting to participate in a meaningless scheme.”
Ikemefuna Ugwu, a Corps member, supported the call for the scrapping of the scheme, saying: “If the Federal Government was aware of the pain graduates go through to serve the nation through the NYSC, it would not hesitate to stop the scheme, especially in this period of recession. At best, the NYSC should be made optional. Graduates should be allowed to choose whether or not to serve, because the NYSC discharge certificate does not guarantee instant employment anywhere.”
On his part, Frank Arinzechukwu, a Corps member, said he strongly believed the essence of the scheme had been defeated, calling for a total review of the programme.
Valentine Umego, a UNIZIK graduate, asked what would become the fate of more than 4,000 graduates if 894 slots were allocated to the school.
“This is an indication that the NYSC is no longer serving its purpose. If there is no money to fund the scheme, there is no reason for the government to keep it. Reducing the quotas allotted each school would elongate the period graduates have to wait to be mobilised for the scheme. In view of this, it is proper for the Federal Government and other agencies of government to intensively look into the programme and take decisive action on it.”