Why NYSC must rethink compulsory corps’ teaching post

For many years, it has become a norm for the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to compulsorily post servicing corps who could not secure a place in lucrative firms to primary and secondary schools.

And this act has caused and is still causing some ripples among Nigerians who felt the idea is a good one but the approach is faulty. Many people bared their minds against the idea of posting the NYSC members to schools to teach without adequate foundational knowledge and teaching experiences which is what is obtaining across the country.

Ugonma Eke, a former NYSC corps member who served in Delta State said the corps members are sent to schools because the policy implementers do not care about total education that starts with having qualified teachers.

She believed that the government does not want to invest in education, we have a system that runs on poverty, and the management leverages this to exploit both the corps and school system.

“If you sent a trained teacher to a school, a person with teaching experience, it will be easier for him to deliver, and the students will gain more, but they will not do that.

“Corps members are supposed to be teachers’ assistants and not teachers, but that is not done, because there are no trained teachers in those schools. The teachers are overwhelmed with work, and the children are the major loser. They won’t hire trained teachers because they do not want to invest in education,” she said.

Elizabeth Omowunmi, a former NYSC corps member in Lagos feels it is a makeup arrangement born out of a system that runs on who you know. She condemned the idea of posting corps members contrary to their line of study, which she described as putting a square peg in a round hole.

Ada Enwerem, who served in Akwa Ibom State described her experience serving as a teacher in a rural community school there as a bitter-sweet experience.

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“During my service year, immediately I found out that I was posted to a school, I felt bad because I had no teaching experience, so, I made up my mind that I was not going to do that, I studied food technology, but they gave me a subject I could not handle.

“Later, I was given Civic Education to teach, my first few days in school were not pleasant because I was not knowledgeable about lesson notes, and there were so many other obstacles. However, as time passed by, I learned to enjoy the teaching experience,” she said.

Enwerem, however, urged that corps should be given foundational training before posting them to teach. Moreover, she opined that graduates should be made to serve in line with what they studied.

Michael Ogunlowo who served in Port Harcourt attributed the development to the lack of capable hands in many Nigerian public primary schools.

“It is the schools that request for NYSC members to beef up their teaching staff because of low manpower. It is quite unfortunate, but that is the reality on the ground. Most times, the multinational firms and other juicy companies hardly request for corps, hence, limiting posting options for the managers,” he said.

Isaac Daniel, currently serving in Kwara State disclosed to BusinessDay that it is hectic serving as a teacher, which is not in any way in line with what he studied.

“I have to endure it because I believe God has plans for me here, though it has not been easy,” he said.

However, amid the numerous outcries against the idea of posting corps who are not education oriented to teach in primary and secondary schools, some Nigerians believe the initiative is ideal, though it could be innovated to yield the needed benefits to both the serving corps members and students.

Ebuka Nnaji, a graduate of Lagos State University (LASU) thinks there should be some sought of interviews, training, and regular appraisals to ensure that what is intended is what is done, and what is being done is yielding the needed result.

“I think the general benefits are the low cost of acquiring their services at short notice and the flexibility they bring to the school. And the major drawbacks are their lack of modern and standard teaching experiences,” he said.

Friday Erhabor, the executive director of media and strategy at Marklenez Limited sees schools as easily available to send coppers by the NYSC management.

“In a way, it is helping out because a lot of schools do not have enough teachers. Where the desirable is not available, the available becomes desirable,” he noted.

Buttressing his view, he told a story about how an undergraduate helped polished his knowledge of the English Language and Literature then.

“When I was in secondary school, the young man that was teaching me English and Literature was studying fine and applied Art at the University of Benin. But he was better than my school English teacher and he was the reason I made my papers at a sitting.

“When I was also in the university, I was teaching some students English, Government, Economics, and Literature and 95 percent of them made their papers at a sitting,” he said.

Olugbenga Olorunpomi, the head of the media committee of the Nigeria youth conference argued that the need for more teachers in the public primary and secondary schools is responsible for the insistent and compulsory posting of corps members to schools whenever they cannot find a place to serve.

Olorunpomi pointed out that in meeting the shortfall of qualified teachers in some of the public primary and secondary schools, such an ad-hoc approach is needed. However, he reiterated that it can be harnessed by giving the purported teachers ideal orientations in teaching and classroom management.

“While it is true that teaching experience may be lacking, this can be addressed by short-term training of the corps members to get them the vital teaching skills,” he said.

He saw a drawback in the system in the area of low-quality teaching delivery when an amateur teacher is asked to manage feeble minds who do not know their left from right when it comes to being knowledgeable about the subject, which in turn results in learning inequality.

Education inequality is rooted in a substandard approach to learning and a lack of quality educators coupled with little or no learning aids. And this Daniel Prelipcean captured in his philosophy about how a nation can be destroyed when he said, “Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examination by students. The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”

Similarly, Nelson Mandela, the legendary former South African president posits that the best weapon to change a country and a people is education. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

However, most times, it is more about how they share their experience of living with their pupils and students that matters more. The kids see someone so young teaching them, who has probably come from somewhere they have never been to, it motivates them to study and aspire to greater heights in life.

The NYSC scheme was created in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. The unfortunate antecedents in our national history gave impetus to the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps by decree No. 24 of May 22. 1973 which stated that the NYSC is being established “with a view to the proper encouragement, and development of common ties among the youths of Nigeria and the promotion of national unity”.

One of the objectives of NYSC is for fresh graduates to give back to their country through community service. To contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy. And, to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.

Nigeria, as a developing country is plagued by the problems attendant upon a condition of underdevelopment, namely; poverty. mass illiteracy, acute shortage of highly skilled manpower coupled with the most uneven distribution of skilled people that are available, woefully inadequate socioeconomic infrastructural facilities, and housing.

Consequently, it is expected that the policymakers and implementers would seek reform on how best to maximise the potential at their disposal in order to add value to both the education system and the serving corps.