A group, The Soul Spring Foundation, has called on the Federal Government to rethink the Prof. Yemi Osinbajo-led Economic Sustainability Committee’s recommendation that the orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps Scheme should be suspended for two years to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The ESC had made many far reaching recommendations to President Muhammadu Buhari on the nation’s responses and precautionary measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement by the President, Save The Soul Spring Foundation, Ogunkuade Oluwatosin, said, “In its focus on the Educational sector and reaction to the NYSC Directorate’s submitted proposal which includes guidelines to reopen camps across the country for which it sought approval, the (ESC) Committee suggested the suspension of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp Exercises for at least 24 months while allowing direct deployment from institutions to places of primary assignment (PPA) to ensure that there is no backlog in the National Service placement.
“With due respect to the person of the Vice President and his Office and without prejudice to the Committee’s recommendations, Save The Soul Spring Foundation, a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) with interest in Youth and Community development and several other stakeholders in the students and youths affairs find the suggestion inaccurate and herewith plead with the Committee and Federal Government to rethink same.”
Noting that there is no gainsaying the facts that the spirit and letters of Decree 24 of 1973 that established NYSC Scheme and the intendment of its drafters was to reawaken patriotism, propagate unity and revive the culture of discipline and endurance among Nigerian youths, it said, “The Orientation Camps has not only become the best attraction for Called-Up graduates, it’s about the only place, during the entire one year compulsory service, that participants are well-exposed to the above listed ideals and ethos of the Scheme.”
Ogunkuade, a former National Vice President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and erstwhile President, Students’ Union Government FEDPOFFA, added that scrapping or suspending it would take the shine off the programme and adversaries who want the Scheme dead would have succeeded.
The statement read: “Recall that the Scheme used to have a twin camp of Orientation at the onset of Call-Up and yet another upon completion but before discharge. With the discontinuance of the Camp at completion, the Orientation Camp remains the singular avenue where the cultures of host communities are inculcated into the Call Members before being dispatched into places of Primary Assignments (PPA). There, in the various Camps, Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development (SAED) training, paramilitary training, social interaction and effective bonding, talent discovery, to say the least, are achieved among the very lively budding young graduates from different institutions nationwide.
“Besides the myriads of gains the nation has benefited from National Youth Corps Scheme from community integration, inter-tribal marriages and entrenchment of peaceful co-existence, the Federal and State Governments have incurred so much on its preparations and infrastructural facilities at the permanent Orientation Camps now scattered across the State. The nation can’t afford these costs, efforts and the labour of the Scheme’s founding fathers to go into waste and become futile.
“The National Youth Service Orientation Camp, the very soul of the Scheme, has become the survival point for many a trader, artisan and small scale entrepreneurs; from photographers to cobblers, tailors who mend and adjust materials for Call Members, from food/snacks vendors to dry cleaners, water and soft drinks sellers etc, the “now regular” Camps have served and continue to serve as succour where men, women and even children earn a living and so, look forward to.
“While we understand the difficulties and challenges associated with Coronavirus and its spread, we believe and very strongly so, that the recent decision to ease the lockdown, remove the restrictions on inter-State travels, opening of worship centres, resumption of aviation services and the prospect of calling back Pupils and Students to Schools and Campuses, there’s no begging the question about the untenability of shutting the Orientation Camp’s gate in the face of freshly called-up youthful graduates.
“Save The Soul Spring Foundation hereby recommend, in place of the proposed suspension of National Youth Service Orientation Camps, that the existing protocols and health advisories about the pandemic are extended to the Camps, while provisions are made for Medical personnel, paramedics, PPE, hand-washing facilities, sanitisers and if possible, isolation centres and other equipment for the prevention of the spread of the dreaded virus and treatment of those who might be unavoidably but inadvertently infected.
“We also implore the Federal Government to at this crucial time develop more interest in NYSC Skill Aquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) Training. Corps Members who have acquired various skills on camp should be beneficiaries of COVID-19 Response Support Programs and Stimulus Plan such as support from African Development Bank (AFDB), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), United Nations (UN) and other world donors. This can help them to create job through Small Medium Enterprises amidst job cut and dwindling economy.
“Finally, we have unshaken faith in the 47 years of unblemished services by NYSC Directorate that have built Nigerian youths and overcome several obstacles. We believe that given the necessary supports and adequate encouragement, Management and Staff in all the Offices of the Scheme will effectively and successfully operate safe and secured Camps across the nation.
“We therefore call on parents, students who are the direct beneficiaries of sustained Orientation Camps, employers of labour that engage the Call members and every stakeholder in the growth and development of our youths, the “leaders of tomorrow” to join in persuading the Economic Sustainability Committee, Mr. President and for that matter, the Federal Government to, in the face of the undeniable benefits, allow the continuation of the NYSC Orientation Camp amidst a secure and hygienic environments since cutting off the head can’t ever be the cure of headache.”