Emmanuel Onwubiko: NYSC not death but skills sentence

  For nearly two weeks now, Japan has being hosting the World to one of the most fascinating Olympics in history. Predictably, a lot of grou...

 

For nearly two weeks now, Japan has being hosting the World to one of the most fascinating Olympics in history.
Predictably, a lot of groundbreaking sporting records have been made mostly by youngsters within the age brackets of 13 to 32. A 13 year British teenager won gold medal in her area of specialisation whereas not fewer than 4 teenagers within age brackets of 15 and 19 won different medals in such classification as Silver and Bronze.

So much media attention and focus has therefore shifted to Japan which is good for a number of reasons including the underlying factor that necessitated this reflection on the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC)-: the place of talents and skills.

Someone just like me who was thinking about the staying power of Japan wrote as follows: “Japan is an advanced Country, not only in terms of technology but society as a whole. They have everything from super-fast bullet trains to talking toilets and robots. An overwhelming number of vending machines are there that contain everything, even clothes and shoes. These advancements can be seen as the results of the modern insatiable hunger for progressiveness has made Japan that it is today”.

Another observer simply says of Japan thus: “the source of Japan’s technological advancements is undoubtedly from the Youth of Japan”.
Japan became so technologically advanced and prosperous not because it has any natural resources but it was built from brain works and the skills of the vast majority of forward-thinking Japanese youngsters. This is one of finest and strongest point to supporting the sustenance of the National Service Corps Scheme in Nigeria moreso when the major aspect of the one year service period is the opportunity for skills acquisition and development by the participants.

Still speaking about Japan, it is noteworthy to recall that last year, a Nigerian researcher by name Uche Chidera did a fantastic work by listing out about seven nations in the World that became advanced and rich not through any natural resources but basically through human resources.

The writer rightly stated that: “Due to the nature of their country- a volcanic island and mountainous country- Japan has a very less amount of natural resources to give adequate support to its economic growth and development. The country had to depend on the importation of raw materials to support its large population and growing economy. However, with exports of electronics, automobiles, semiconductors, conductors, steel, iron and copper, Japan was able to sustain economic growth. Other exports include processed foods, textiles, shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, bio-industry, and aerospace”.

These products and services couldn’t have materialised were it not that Japan invested substantially to train her manpower made up essentially of young people.

Interestingly, the writer aforementioned also listed Singapore amongst the nations that got developed through the powers of human resources.

The writer stated that: “With no natural resources and having a very small population among other countries on this list, Singapore proves to the world how a tiny island can become one of the most prosperous nations across the globe. Aside from becoming prosperous, Singapore also becomes an advanced country raking in $420 billion from the exportation of machinery and equipment, food and beverages, electronics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and refined oil. Singapore has to import everything they needed including water from their neighboring country- Malaysia.”

The man whose political sagacity and leadership acumen led to the evolution of the rapidly advanced Singapore wrote a wonderful book in which he alluded to the fundamental place of talents as the best way for any nation to become developed and advanced.

Hear him-: “On the night of 14 August 1983, I dropped a bombshell in my annual National Day Rally address. Live on both our television channels, with maximum viewership., I said it was stupid for our graduate men to choose less-educated and less-intelligent wives if they wanted their children to do as well as they had done. The press named it the “Great Marriage Debate.” As I had expected, the speech stirred a hornet’s nest. My wife Choo had warned me there were many more women with only O levels (an equivalent to a high school education) than women with university degrees. It caused a drop of 12 percentage points in votes for the PAP in the election the following year, more than I had anticipated.”

He wrote further-: “it had taken me some time to see the obvious, that talent is a country’s most precious asset.”
For a small resource-poor country like Singapore, he had argued, with 2 million people at independence in 1965, it is the defining factor.

The Chinese here, he recalled, were mostly the descendants of agricultural laborers from the southern provinces of China, many brought in by labor contractions as indentured workers to do heavy manual work such as loading and unloading Cargo and pulling rickshaws.
Early Indian immigrants also came as indentured laborers to work on rubber estates, build roads, and dig trenches and drains. Most were from the lower castes. There were small groups of Indian merchants and clerks. The ablest were Sindhi merchants and Hindu Brahmins, in particular their priests. Their descendants have high ability. Malays as a rule were better in the arts than the sciences, he wrote.

“After several years in government I realized that the more talented people I had as ministers, administrators, and professionals, the more effective my policies were, and the better the results. My mind flashed back to Prince Sihanouk. He was talented. When he made his films he had to be author, scriptwriter, director, actor, and producer. Cambodia did not have enough educated and talented people and the few they had, Pol Pot later killed. That was one reason for the tragedy in Cambodia.”

“What made me decide to make that Great Marriage Debate speech was a report on my desk analyzing the 1980 census figures. It showed that our brightest women were not marrying and would not be represented in the next generation. The implications were grave. Our best women were not reproducing themselves because men who were their educational equals did not want to marry them. About half of our university graduates were women; nearly two-thirds of them were unmarried. The Asian man, whether Chinese, Indian, or Malay, preferred to have a wife with less education than himself. Only 38 percent of graduate men were married to graduate women in 1983.” (FROM THIRD WORLD TO FIRST (THE SINGAPORE STORY; 1965-2000 BY LEE KUNAN YEW).
From all that we have said above, it is therefore logical to argue that the relevance of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) is even much more strategic at these times whereby from every indices of economic development, the Nigerian Youths are facing a litany of challenges and the most dominant is youth unemployment. The NYSC provides a 12 months job buffer but inevitably serves as the best opportunity to harness the skills and talents of youths make them self reliant thereafter. As Lee Kunan YEW wrote in his classic, in Nigeria, the NYSC also creates the meeting points for skilled graduates to intermarry thereby increasing the possibility of procreation more Children that are naturally and genetically inclined to skills acquisition and with the passion to develop their innate talents.

Employment statistics about Nigerian youth are not very palatable. This issue of unemployment is addressed when the NYSC give the participants the opportunities to sharpen their skills and gain practical knowledge on becoming self reliance economically.

Therefore any call for the abrogation of the NYSC can only add to the worsening of the problems associated with youth unemployment in Nigeria.

As recorded by experts, in 2019, the estimated youth unemployment rate in Nigeria was at almost 17.69 percent. According to the source, the data are estimates from the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations developing policies to set labor standards.

Importantly, the youth unemployment rate refers to the percentage of the unemployed in the age group of 15 to 24 years as compared to the total labor force. Youth unemployment rates are reportedly often higher than overall unemployment rates, which is true in Nigeria as well: the general rate of unemployment was approximately six percent in 2018. One reason for this contrast is that many of the youth under age 24 are studying full-time and are unavailable for work due to this.

The writer said and truly so that Nigeria’s population has a large percentage of young inhabitants, and there is a high demand for educational opportunities for its young populace.

“After severe cuts in governmental aid following a nationwide recession in 2016, Nigeria’s underfunded higher education system became the focus of ongoing student protests and strikes. Other families have taken a different approach: Nigeria is the top country of origin for international students from the continent of Africa. For example, Nigeria sent over 12,600 students to the U.S. in 2017/18, the most of any African country,” the writer concluded.

The good news however is that there is a unique department within the NYSC that makes all the difference and this is the skills acquisition division which I understand is being sustained by the management of the NYSC headed by the educationist Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim.

The department is also known as entrepreneurship and empowerment division. From what has been seen so far from multiple sources including many beneficiaries of the different range of programmes of capacity and skills acquisition initiatives of the NYSC, it is logical to conclude that the NYSC inevitably bridges the skills and talents gaps in Nigeria and this is good for the national aspirations of making Nigeria economically and technologically advanced just like Japan that we discussed earlier.

The functions of the department mentioned earlier include: To lSensitize and mobilize 200, 000 young graduates for skill acquisition annually; to facilitate the training and mentoring of 100, 000 young graduates in skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development for self-reliance annually; to Promote public-private partnership for entrepreneurship development and self-reliance amongst Nigerian youths; to Promote documentation and sharing of best practices on youth empowerment in Nigeria; to Support evidence-driven advocacy efforts for favorable policies on youth empowerment in Nigeria; for the Sensitization and mobilization of corps members for enrollment into the skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development program.

Other roles include: Development of a standard curriculum for the in-camp skill acqusition exercise; Identification of organizations at state level to provide training and mentoring in specific skills sets; Attachment of the corps members to the various organizations for skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development; On-going monitoring and supervision of trainee corps members and to Facilitate access to available funding opportunities.

Lastly, the NYSC needs all the institutional and funding support that they very much need to be able to expand the scopes of the range oftraimings that the youths are exposed to during their engagement in the scheme in their places of primary assignments. This is where the clarion call for the passage of a legislative framework for the institutionalisation of the NYSC YOUTHS TRUST FUND. With the passion and soft spot of that President Muhammadu Buhari has for the NYSC, it is hoped that the appeal to create this strategic youth endowment fund would be actualized by this present NYSC’s friendly administration.

*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.
He can be reached @[email protected], www.thenigerianinsidernews.com.

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