Monday, September 15, 2008

Encouraging Youth Corpers to Volunteer

The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, was established in Nigeria in the seventies as a one-year compulsory service for all Nigerians under the age of 30 years with an aim to built responsible citizens enabled to contribute to national development. Every year about 300,000 youth enroll NYSC corpers. There is a three-week orientation across all states which includes primarily para-military training and more recently more useful add-ons like leadership, MDGs etc (UNICEF and UNDP partner with NYSC to attract and train peer educators on MDGs). Corpers are placed outside their state of origin typically with schools or government offices often in remote areas. They have one day of the week marked for community development activities. The program has an excellent geographical spread and covers almost every inch of the country.

In conversations with the young and the old, I have received mixed responses to the idea, relevance and impact of the NYSC program. Some regard it as irrelevant since it was initiated during the military regime, some regard it as necessary to induce a sense of discipline among youth. Youth themselves are not very excited about it since it means being posted away from home in a far flung area with limited access.

The sheer volume offers tremendous potential for impact and VSO has partnered with NYSC to include a pilot sensitization on volunteering at the orientation in four of the 36 states. My organization was called on to facilitate the Lagos camp and 4-5 of us including some national volunteers conducted a one-hour session to get corpers attracted to the idea of volunteering. The Lagos camp was like a party zone with blaring music, internet checking points, booths selling almost everything from insurance to loans to mobile connections to clothes....Given the large size of the audience (in thousands), we managed a crowd but about 200-300 who seemed to be interested in what we had to say!

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