(By Roberts Belema)
The NYSC has become a year-long summer camp of sorts, delaying entry into the serious world of competition and unemployment. Thus, I would posit that unless the corps members actually take it upon themselves to hone and develop whatever skills they have acquired, and to maintain a certain level of mental fitness by endeavouring to read, study and educate themselves with respect to their core disciplines, the present structure of the NYSC actually does its best to make them increasingly unemployable after the completion of the service year!
Continued from yesterday
SOME people may blithely and dismissively argue that since membership of the NYSC lasts for only a period of one year, corps members ought to stomach and endure the pains associated with disillusionment and inability to pursue their cherished dreams and aspirations vis-à-vis their chose disciplines; “after all, it will only last for one year”, such people may say. I find that I am deeply disturbed by this way of thinking and also confess to being completely flummoxed by the notion that a nation in such obvious need would, even for a single second, be willing to sacrifice the hope and enthusiasm of its brightest young minds on the altar of the continued existence of its redundant systems.
Given the already precarious and floundering educational sector and the necessity of the functionality of the said sector to our national and economic growth and development, one would think that not only would we be tenaciously addressing the many problems within the system, we would also be aggressively nurturing and protecting whatever progress we are able to achieve in the sector. According to A. Bartlett Giamatti (1938 – 1989), a liberal education is at the heart of a civil society, and that at the heart of a liberal education is the art of teaching. If this is the case and it is accepted as true, then it invariably means that the people upon whom it rests the responsibility of teaching those who are to become the nation’s future leaders and captains of industry must be extremely competent, capable, tried, tested and approved by a committed and capable authority. Further, the teachers in our classrooms and in our schools must have undergone intensive training and must also be involved in constant development. There must be zero-tolerance for errors where the education of our children is concerned; we simply cannot afford to let just anyone become a teacher in our schools given the enormous responsibility that they must successfully bear. Unfortunately, the current structure of the NYSC dictates that many graduates without any specialised training in teaching practice whatsoever be magically transformed into ace teachers overnight. This can be likened to shooting oneself in the foot because many of these graduates are themselves sad victims of a failing educational system and by constraining them to teaching in the classrooms, the scheme is directing them to go and teach students what they themselves do not know, in a manner they do not know how.
Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005) was spot-on when he said, “Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance.” To a large extent, any educational system is only as good as its teachers and the current structure of the NYSC is dealing a tragic blow to an already ailing system. It is a terrible catastrophe for the poor students the corps members are compelled to teach and prepare in order that they may be able to face future challenges that await them in a dynamic, fast-paced and extremely competitive world. It is debilitating to our national economy when the potential leaders cannot think sufficiently and express their ideas succinctly because their primary and secondary education has been left to succession after succession of inept teachers in a system that is already vitally challenged.
I recently came across an excerpt from an article written by Chidi Amuta for ThisDay Newspapers in 2012 that read, “If the NYSC was designed to ease pressure on the job market with a one-year delay in effective demand for jobs that too has failed. There are no jobs out there. With or without the NYSC, 95 per cent of our graduates output cannot find jobs.” The current structure of the NYSC ensures that it can do absolutely nothing to positively check the increasing rates of unemployment and underemployment in the country. If anything, I would argue that in a perverse fashion, the present structure of the scheme lulls corps members into a false sense of security that is derived from the certainty of receiving guaranteed monthly stipend from the government regardless of whether or not they have actually worked for it and are actually deserving of such pay.
In most cases, when the time finally arrives for such payments to cease, many corps members are shocked to suddenly realise that they have become hopelessly reliant on the monthly payments into their respective bank accounts by the Federal Government. They become mentally paralysed by the fear of no longer receiving such payments and after their service year is complete, they seek to assuage this fear by sacrificing their innovation and whatever entrepreneurial drive they possess for exceedingly elusive and sometimes mundane paid employment.
I would further argue that because the scheme’s present structure currently supports gross mismatches between corps members’ core disciplines and the places of primary assignment they are posted to and directed to serve, at the end of the service year, they exhibit a marked and unmistakable decline in mental acuity and general skill level with respect to their chosen disciplines. This cannot be so hard to imagine, given that for an entire year, the corps members have not had the opportunity to actively and effectively develop and hone whatever skills they had garnered as a result of their tertiary education. In the words of Leonardo da Vinci, “Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation…even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.” Is it any wonder then that many employers insist that a shocking number of graduates today are unemployable? In fact, many employers generally disregard the service year on a fresh graduate’s curriculum vitae, with the only significance of the period to them being that the applicant has completed the service year as mandated by the law of the land and has been awarded a certificate by the appropriate authorities as proof.
The NYSC has become a year-long summer camp of sorts, delaying entry into the serious world of competition and unemployment. Thus, I would posit that unless the corps members actually take it upon themselves to hone and develop whatever skills they have acquired, and to maintain a certain level of mental fitness by endeavouring to read, study and educate themselves with respect to their core disciplines, the present structure of the NYSC actually does its best to make them increasingly unemployable after the completion of the service year! This state of affairs is clearly detrimental to the plight of corps members and it is certainly injurious to an economy that is already beleaguered by the crisis wrought by staggering rates of unemployment across the entire Federation.
If the economy crumbles, we the citizens will suffer the debilitating consequences. Why then have we allowed such a crucial matter as the urgent need to restructure the NYSC to fade away from our collective consciousness? We should be boldly agitating for changes much in the same way we collectively agitated against the decision by the Federal Government to completely remove fuel subsidy on petroleum products! Is it completely unreasonable for us to insist that posting be made on the juxtaposition of proper need assessment carried out in the communities corps members are posted to and their respective disciplines and areas of specialisation?
Let the engineers be gathered together and specifically tasked with solving infrastructural problems and pioneering agricultural and technological innovation in the communities they serve in! Let those corps members trained to, and deemed capable of teaching effectively then do so! Let corps members be afforded the opportunity in serve in areas of endeavour where their knowledge and skills vis-à-vis their respective disciplines will be creatively applied and positively exploited to the advantage of the various communities in which they serve and ultimately, to the national economy. Let opportunities be created so that corps members of different disciplines may meet and interact with practising professionals and senior colleagues so that they may begin to visualise for themselves the niches they will need to strive to create and in which to operate after they may have completed their service year.
We must be proactive and speak now. We do not need to wait for more tragedy to befall more corps members before our collective interest is again stimulated to once more insist that the Federal Government restructure or even scrap the NYSC. Its present structure is killing our economy and our lives; livelihoods and welfare are sustained by the economy, within the economy.
Martin Luther King, Jnr. said, “Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence. History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Good people, the stakes are simply too high to remain silent.
• Belema is an Electrical/Electronics engineer, Reward and Conflict Managers Mowe, Ogun State.
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