Saturday, December 17, 2005

NYSC

I realise that I haven't written very much about my service year so far with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Well, the simple response to that is there's been nothing to write about!

After the 3-week orientation camp, for the rest of the service year, corpers devote one day a week to community development (or CD as it's popularly referred to). I hear that corpers outside of Lagos embark on really ambitious CD projects, which have some impact on the community. In my local government, to say that we have been somewhat lacking in initiative and drive, would be putting it mildly. CD days, until the last couple of weeks, have involved a lot of sitting around, making new friends and jisting. The general consensus is that this is a big waste of our time, as well as the government resources (though frankly, most people could care less about the latter).

This general idleness must have been a source of concern to someone with influence, because for the last two weeks, the officials have been rounding-up the corpers and making us clean up the NYSC yard - I say "making us", because the implicit understanding is that if we don't work, we don't get our CD cards signed and then we might not be able to pass out of this damned service year. So in the end, NYSC gets its grass cut and compound swept for free. Well, lucky them! Who can I complain to about my raw end of the deal?

The good news in this rather dismal situation is that my CD group has really been trying to get it together and develop an action plan for the year. If we are successful in doing this, we can hopefully leave some kind of legacy for subsequent corpers. And really, there's no reason why we shouldn't be successful in doing this, as long as group members show-up for CD, do their assigned tasks and generally show some interest in the group's activities ....... oh hell, who am I fooling?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ore,

Your blog is like a breath of fresh air, particularly because in July I went back to Lagos to interview for some jobs cos i was thinking of relocating and after getting there and walking into several offices and have the women give me the worst looks ever (probably thinking, what is this one feeling like!!!)and the interviewers really not interviewing ( i mean, asking a question like, when are you getting married?, we would have preferred a married woman for the job!!), i knew i wasnt ready to face all that, so instead i moved halfway accross the United States, from PA to CA.
I love it here and i knew i needed a change and i am pleased with my descision, but sometimes i have those moments, maybe i shoulda just braved it and gone and faced whatever came my way, after all i lived there for so long, how bad could it be??.
So you go gyrl, live my dream and kick butt doing it!!

Everchange said...

I'm thinking of doing NYSC when I come back, but at the moment I would prefer not to do it in Lagos. Maybe that will change once I get there, who knows. I would really like to see other (less frantic) parts of the country. If not for sharia and its wahala in the North, Jos would have been my first choice. Then maybe Enugu. The problem is that most of the NGOs are in Lagos that I would want to be attached to.

Ore said...

@ anonymous: I know exactly what you mean wrt the personal questions at interviews. This extends to practically all other facets of your life and it's really taking a lot of getting used to for me. I hate questions about why I'm not married and the commonly-held beliefs that single women are not to be trusted or somehow less reliable than married women.

I could never have guessed how much I would miss the American concept of personal space.

BTW, what part of Cali are you in? I always wanted to live there for a while. LA, in a lot of ways, reminded me of Lagos - how you have to drive everywhere, how image conscious people are, how distrustful people are of others.

@ everchange: If comfort had not been such a major factor for me and the fact that I knew where I wanted to work, I should really have gone somewhere else. I mean, I have spent most of my life in Lagos and the opportunity to discover a new place would have been a good one for me. Also, the frenetic pace can be altogether too much sometimes.

What types of NGOs are you thinking about working with?

Anonymous said...

Ore,

I am in San Francisco, I dunno that I could have lived in LA,(u r right though about it being a lot like lagos and the image conscious bit...dead on!!)
SF is more laid back and easy going. I still would like to come back to Nigeria at some point , but I guess God didnt have that in the plans for me just yet....
and the questions...someone actually asked me if i was "seeing" anyone and i said no, and the person responded "why not???"...how do you respond to a question like that?, i wanted to aske her "do you have triplets?" if her response had been no, i would have asked her "why not"??....
dude,(sorry, i lived in the middle of nowhere PA, i think i am allowed to say dude!!:-)what kind of question is that...??
Anyway, you seem to be doing pretty well with everything. Your service year seems to be going well..so keep it up!!

Everchange said...

I love California and hope to live there for at least a little while someday. About the NGOs, I'm looking at human rights education and outreach, and that would be Baobab. But I'm also somewhat interested in the technical aspect of development work (i.e. service delivery) such as microfinance, education and healthcare. I would really like to work in another African country, but the possibilities so far have been slim, at least without a graduate degree. People want you to have a graduate degree, but the truth is you can't get a job in development without experience. You try to gain experience, but people want you to have a degree. It's mind-boggling, but I resolve to crack the NGO glass ceiling somehow.

It's Just My Opinion said...

Wow....that article is deep...and so true, especially the part about babies being weaved up, not ever given them the chance to enjoy the beauty of what God determined would come out of their hair. Thanks for sharing.

Ore said...

@ Everchange: You could try the Commonwealth Secretariat. They run a number of volunteer programs in Africa and might also be hiring. I got a volunteer position working with a women's business group in Kenya and Tanzania, but wasn't able to go.

You will get a stipend and have travel expenses paid for and it's a good way to build some experience.

Nneka's World said...

I give you props ore, i "tried" moving back to nigeria last year, but that thing of personal space was a big problem to me.
You are one brave woman and goodluck with the CD.

Ore said...

@ Everchange: You could also try http://www.awid.org/jobs for a range of non-profit work. Occasionally, jobs in Nigeria appear.

Anonymous said...

Men!, you cant imagine how i feel seeing an article on NYSC. This is something i m really passionate about, i mean, it really makes me mad.
I just happen to have finished my service year last august and i cant explain the experience. I just want to scream cause thats is the only to express my feelings.
Spent most of my life in Lagos but went to the UK to study.After my studies worked for a year and then decided it was time to return home - Lagos.
I knew i had to do NYSC, so braised up myself for the worst, besides i once attended a Federal Govt Girls college up north of Nigeria, what could be worse.
First had to go to Abuja to register. It was hell travelling inter-state. The flight was rough, very rough, especially when i was returning to Lagos after picking up my posting letter.I was dripping sweat through out the flight and it wasn't hot, it was due to severe fear of death.I held on to the arm rest of my seat so tightly,closed my eyes and prayed throughout. Ah!I said i will never go to Abuja again.
Now orientation camp, got there with all my personal affects, no directions or instruction, just saw a very long queue and thought "ok,i guess we start at this point". I queued from 11am that morning to 2am (the next the morning, oh!)and it wasnt my turn yet. By this time I had been shoved to the left,right and everywhere possibile,until there was nowhere else - hanging mid-air. I lost my decency, pride and also all the positive thinking i armed myself with. I was so frustrated. At that point I knew that it will only take the intervention of God for me to complete the service year. That night tears rolled freely for me, has i finnally got to the 2nd place on the queue and the officals got up and declared registration closed until day break.
I was weak. All my guards were down, all the sykes i gave myself that the camp experience would be under control was gone, i couldnt syke myself anymore. Got a spare matress by 3am after another long queuing up. The distribution was done by one man in a tiny store of hundreds of matresses. He had to light a candle to see what he was distributing because there was no electricity supply. We shouted and shouted but who can blame the poor man he had to attend to over 950 of us that night all by himself with a candle.
As I climbed the stairs into the hostel, the smell of the bathroom - stagnant soapy water, unflushed toilets etc brushed my face, something ran down my spine."Yes, this is it" that was my thought.I dont know how i survived. It was horrible. We slept for 2hrs, then rushed for the registration queue again lined up for aprox. 3hrs just waiting for the officals to get out of bed.Didnt finish my registration until 6pm that even. By then I had lost my morale.
The first 3 days we were all still moaning, complaining about this and that.By the 4th day we were brain dead. The over stressful routine of the camp turned us to dummys. We were tired, stressed out, burnt out and still had to follow the commands of the soldiers. It felt like a psycological thing, our emotional,phyiscal and sometimes mental strenght had been beaten down, I personally felt very vunurable and it was just easier to follow their commands. They claimed to organise seminars for us, to enlighten us and equip us for life after camp but it was all marketing gimmicks. some of this seminar were done with us seating on the tarred ground, called parade ground directly under the hot sun after a long drills by the soldiers. i cant tell you a word of what they said in that seminar and i know 90% of the other people cant either. We were usually so tired that we actually sleep off under that hot sun during the seminars. It was hell. Like we were soldiers been purnished. How do you impart knowlegde under such conditions. It wasnt even a seminar really, those companies came with there products, they did some marketing and we heard that they put some money in the NYSC's purse so that they could come talk to us. And they called it seminar and workshop.
When we left camp, we praised God and appreciated life. Now you can go to toilet when you want to go and not store up till 1 night when you cant take it anymore. I then understood why some people did their poo on the floor in front of the toilets - they couldnt make it to the toilets.
By the time left that camp I became a proper niga girl. I made it, but I know i baby sister wont make it next year.
I thought the stress of my life was over until we started with posting and CD issues. i will have to keep that story for another day.
The bottom line is that NYSC is such a disorganised, unproffessional and confused scheme. Under-utilising graduates and the resources they have at there disposal. Chartered accountants, architects, Nurses, engineers sweeping the Oshodi/Bolade markets and major roads, when there are already people employed by the govt to do so . Cant they think of more productive CD activites.
To passout of the scheme was another heart ache because they could not organise their administrative duties properly. We queued up for 3 days and the queue was still going. They already knew what was involved and how many corpers they had to cater for, they do it twice a year and have done for over 30 years and they still manage to mess it up woefully . They made such s big issue with such a small task. its a big shame.
These people are just a bunch of jokers, doing the same thing for 30years not improving on their services and not making provision for changes. I dont think they know what they are doing.
Well I m not trying to discourage anyone, I went through it, it wasnt such a good experience but it brought out the Niga girl in me. And I tell you, you need that niga girl attitude to make it in nigeria. When push comes to shove you have to be strong headed and sometimes aggressive to get what you want. You have to be 'niga-wise' , a 'londongirl'as i call my sister wont survive Niga o. You will have to run back leaving your belongings behind.

Ore said...

@anonymous: Sorry to hear that your NYSC experience sucked. I totally agree that the scheme is a waste of talent and knowledge. Corpers have so much to offer, if only it were better employed. Many are extremely underpaid in their places of primary assignment and, if you are in a city like Lagos, your salary is nowhere near enough to live on. Corpers are basically a step above slave labour.

But, I'm enjoying my work and we are really trying to make a go of our CD group, so we'll see how the year pans out for me.

Overall though, there SERIOUSLY needs to be an overhaul of the NYSC organization.

Adunni said...

ore,
i totally enjoyed reading your article on nysc. im currently a batch B corper and im serving in kaduna state.i've always wanted to write about my nysc experience and your blog gave me a good idea of how to do it. Responding to the annonymous comment on nysc,i'm of the opinion that even though the nysc is all of those things she said (i think she's a lady), the orientation camp was also fun. It was bad yes but in the midst of all the bad there was some good. And the nysc really does accomplish some of its objectives, even in the midst of all the madness that the orientation camp is. For those of us serving outside Lagos, nysc has been so many things for different people ranging from a time of self discovery to a test of endurance and an absolute nightmare for some...
In all i just want to say that we should all view the nysc as a good program that has been beset by all thats wrong with Nigeria.And be proud of the opportunity to "serve our fatherland" even though all we do is serve our selves and collect government allawi on a monthly basis.

Ore said...

Hi Adunni,
It's great to hear from another Batch B corper. I am sure that your experiences are so different from mine.

When people say that the program is a complete waste of time, I can see where they are coming from. There are people I saw on the first CD day who I have never seen since, but who I'm sure will pass out like the rest of us. There are also so many inefficiencies in the system that need to be corrected. I can imagine what a wonderful experience NYSC could be.

But you are right, in all experiences you take the good with the bad. And you can choose to focus more on the positives than the not so pleasant.

I have met so many people from all over the country and my CD group is making a go of things. We have some BIG plans for the rest of our service year. I must remember to do an update soon.

Enjoy the rest of your year!