The purpose of this piece is to give a personal view of the National Youth Service based on my experience. I recently concluded the 3 weeks orientation camp at Iyana Ipaja and I’m now serving. What I write here is exactly how I feel. Others may feel otherwise.
Before continuing, it is useful for me to say a bit about myself. I finished college in 2011 somewhere abroad however I had no intention of getting into the working population there, so I moved back to Nigeria and pursued other ways of making money. Think Music, Sports, Arts, Fashion etc… I chose to focus my efforts on one of the categories I just mentioned….and it wasn’t easy. To cut a long story short it was very hard. Hard to the point I had to beg for money and do menial jobs to survive. I eventually traveled to a foreign nation to escape the hardship of Nigeria, and this traveling even showed me greater hardship.
For two years I worked towards my goal but things only got worse so I returned to Nigeria. Some say I wasted two years; other family members said I came back to Nigeria to cause trouble. Due to the harsh experience I had when I traveled to pursue my career, upon returning, I saw Nigeria in a different light. Nigeria looked beautiful! Nigeria looked easy! It now seemed like I could easily cope. I became propelled to pursue NYSC in August 2014, and camp was like heaven. Part of the reasons camp felt easy was because I had faced far greater things, and camp was simply a walk in the park.
For a moment lets put my experience aside; everyone’s experience is personal to them…so no one can say theirs is greater than the other man’s. My experience should be kept on hold. Lets talk Spiritual! In some camps I have heard a mysterious Whirlwind appears on some occasions, but this wasn’t my experience in the Lagos camp. Over a thousand youth were gathered in one place, many of whom had never met before. Suddenly we became friends; worked together, played together, and drank together. NYSC is about Unity. The beauty of life is in socializing and meeting new people; the beauty of life is in stepping out of your comfort zone and taking bold steps; the beauty of life is in taking risks; the beauty of life is in seeing the “other side” (then you’ve got the experience of both sides), creating your own niche, and doing what your heart desires. An individual’s life should be about Productivity, Philanthropy and Prosperity…..and NYSC offers all this, or at least tries to offer this.
Something happened in camp which actually made me quite sad. I saw some foreign students leaving as they couldn’t handle it. One of them said to me he can’t use the toilet. Even some local students couldn’t handle it; making me understand that handling NYSC is not about whether you schooled abroad or stayed home or whether you’ve had a tough experience in life or not. Rather it is about how open one is to different experiences. It is about being able to view life from all directions, not from just one direction. Being ready to accept comfort and discomfort; being able to accept the good and the bad; being able to accept all the positives and negatives that occur in this life. The Chinese call this ‘Ying Yang’, and unless a person is able to understand that life is about balance, then they can never see its true beauty.
My expectation of the NYSC program was pretty low due to all the lies people told me about it. Many said it was a waste of time; some said it wasn’t necessary. But it was necessary in every way! I must confess my aim of getting into it was just to get out from my parent’s home/business and find work somewhere else. Then I realized this scheme offered more to me than any other thing. You may wonder how….Well that one year will give you time to meditate and plan your life better; it will allow you reflect on the past and really think of what your purpose really is. Also when you are serving you are working, acquiring skills and meeting new people. So really one year is not being wasted, rather your CV is even being developed. As at now I am learning tailoring and also teaching in a school where I have the opportunity to impact and shape younger kids!
NYSC is magical; everything changes. Strangers would see you in a bus and start shouting Copper! Copper! You could even try and not pay toll gate charges (I did that), people will at times give you a pass because you are in service to your country. I just finished camp, so I’ve still got about 11 more months to continue serving, however the 3 weeks experience I had in camp has assured me it will be a glorious year regardless. Understand that I am not saying it is all jolly. Like I said earlier, it’s about Balance. Life is about Balance.
While serving in Lagos, you receive about 20k naira from government, and really kudos to Lagos government. They are giving us something! Yes, 20k is something, and if used wisely, it is quite sufficient. People will always find where to chop money; humans always want profit. So yes the officials handling this program are chopping money however they are still giving coppers something.
So my personal grade for the NYSC program so far is 79%. Here’s why:
* Uniform, Shoes and Boots: Very low quality. My trousers kept ripping which meant I had to always pay to stitch it. I got shoes that weren’t my size so yea I had to pay to change them too. But the fees were small, usually about 200 naira or so.
* Food: Was okay. It’s really meant to keep you from being hungry rather than fully satisfy you. But they did their best; they were consistent. This shouldn’t be an issue, but I like plenty and high quality food, so for me it was. I often went twice to collect though (and of course this wasn’t allowed).
This score may change as the year progresses, but my hope and desire is that it increases.
As a side note: If anyone has a problem with the toilets, the solution is simple: carry along Dettol! But really the toilets are okay. They were all fixed before we came in….but it’s good to be realistic. Many people are going to use those toilets every day, so just prepare your mind that once in a while you may see what you don’t like. Lest I forget at the Lagos camp I served in, cleaners tried their best to clean it everyday.
Read another experience at the Lagos NYSC Camp here
Read another experience at the Delta NYSC Camp here
Read another experience at the Ogun NYSC Camp here