NYSC and youth development in Africa By Lot Christopher

The National Youth Service Corps Scheme seems to share unique similarities with other established youth services worldwide in terms of evolution, concepts and operations.
In Nigeria the Service-National Youth Service Corps came to limelight in 1973 and was crafted to meet the quest for oneness and peaceful co-existence amongst the multifaceted ethnic and religious groups that constitute the Nigeria polity having been threatened by the civil war experience.
Empirical evidence has shown that any nationstate characterised by issues of multiplicity of religious and ethnic cleavages, unemployment, crime and other negative vices associated with destructive consequences tends to deliberately apply the principles of checks and balances, decentralization of power and quota system to prevent a possible domination of a group or groups.
This engagement is consistent with the ideal programmes consciously selected to promote national unity and integration, understanding, tolerance and the spirit of oneness which reduces frictions in all spheres of human endeavours.
This is yet another reliable instrument fashioned out to address national questions.
The NYSC is largely believed to be in this mould.
A comparative analysis of Youth Service programmes in Africa showcases the Nigerian NYSC model as a trail blazer for youth and national development having been designed with focus on broad spectrum of objectives aimed at enhancing national unity, socio-economic development and uniquely covering both the urban and rural areas, the private and public sectors.
The NYSC Scheme-Nigeria Youth Service model is structured alongside those of Balilia of Mussolini- Italy, the Young Pioneers of defunct Soviet Union, the Red Guards of mainland China, the Graduate Voluntary Service- Great Britain and the Voluntary Service to America (VISTA) of USA.
All these organisations were established with a clear focus on national unity and consciousness.
However, there exist a sharp contrast with those of African origin that focus mostly on rural development and skill acquisition.
The Youth Service programmes in Ghana and Egypt; Nigeria’s predecessors and source of inspiration to several other Youth Service programmes in Africa are critical examples.
For instance, Ghanaian Youth Service programme ‘Young Pioneers’ is modelled along Russians’ Young Pioneers.
It however mobilizes its participants from primary to university level.
Other examples are: Egypt’s “Serve Your Village Scheme”, Ethiopian Students One Year Compulsory Rural Service, the Malawi Young Pioneers, the Zambia Youth Service and the Tanzanian National Service among others.
Of all the Youth Service programmes worldwide, one common force is the YOUTHS.
Reason? The youths have been found to be the most effective tool for national integration and cohesion.
Failure to main-stream this productive section of the population into the complexities of state craft amid the diversities and plurality in African polity is to mortgage future greatness and successes.
However, one distinguishing factor of the Nigerian model is its focus on the youth of the post-tertiary educational level and a systematic process of mobilizing these future leaders for leadership roles and patriotic service to their fatherland.
It is important to stress here that the task of Nation building in Europe, Asia and America whose polity are characterised by monolithic culture is in contrast with the history of nation building in Africa and Nigeria in particular, where nationalities were merged into nation-state (s) by force of colonialism and imperialism.
Therefore, it must be admitted that this historical antecedence in Africa influenced by colonialism has further polarized the continent in absolute disregard to cultural diversities.
The founding fathers of NYSC programme 45 years ago, took cognizance of these realizations by setting up the Scheme.
The effort of NYSC over the years has succeeded in healing the wounds of the Nigerian tragic past due to the civil war and has consistently accelerated national integration, unity, and purposeful development in the Country.
As a trail blazer NYSC scheme has come to be a major source of labour for the government and the private sector.
Corps members do not only present advantages of exhibiting high level of fresh skills acquired in schools and bringing such to bear on their jobs, but they are also a source of quality service for the various establishments who make use of their services.
There is hardly any qualification or skill outside the reach of the Scheme.
This resource base has enables the scheme to supply qualitative labour regularly to the economy within the last 45years.
In addition, their participation in the primary and secondary assignments have afforded corps members the opportunity to contribute their own quota to the development of the nation.
The NYSC scheme has performed creditably in the area of health care delivery.
Majority of corps medical doctors and other medical personnel are posted to rural areas.
The advantage in this deployment is that the bulk of rural communities that were hitherto starved ofqualified medical experts have the opportunity and advantage of having their health problems examined by qualified medical personnel at a lesser cost.
Over the years the scheme has distinguished itself in the area of public enlightenment programmes aimed at identifying disease infested animals with a view to stop the people from consuming such animals.
Other areas of intervention include environmental sanitation, provision of safe drinking water, family planning and reproductive health campaign as well as other campaigns against drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and active participation in mass immunisation against Public Health Diseases among others.
It is equally obvious that the intervention of the Scheme in the educational sector is remarkable.
It is public knowledge that secondary and tertiary institutions all over Nigeria are short of full-time resident teachers.
Majority of schools in Nigeria today depend on NYSC Scheme for the supply of quality manpower.
In conclusion, The Nigerian NYSC scheme is indeed a trail blazer for youth development in Africa.
This is because no one country’s Youth Service could claim to posses all the traits of the Nigerian experiment.
In many respect, the Scheme has been outstanding in pushing the frontiers of critical sectors of the economy further a field in the interest of the nation.
The strategic importance of NYSC Scheme cannot be over emphasized as it holds the key to accelerated national development.
Christopher writes from Abuja

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