NYSC burnout – The perks and perils of being a corper

Here’s a sneek peek into my personal life.

I started NYSC in March last year 2014 (to my non-Nigerian readers, NYSC stands for National Youth Service Corps and is something every Nigerian graduate must partake in, whether you studied in Nigeria or not; I studied in the UK and graduated in 2008 but never got round to doing it. But now here I am almost through with it 🙂 ). 90% of the time it has been a nightmare! I have been close to giving up on it but I like to finish whatever I start. Although the NYSC experience has been tough to deal with, I have also had a few victories of my own. Let me start by saying 1 year spent on NYSC is an unneeded career break as you spend it doing something too distant from what you usually do or intend to do with your life. Not good at all for your CV.

I graduated from Uni in 2008 and 6 years later I started my NYSC. At least 8years before NYSC I worked and worked and worked. As a student in London, I had to work part time for extra cash – I wasn’t one of them rich kids who depended solely on income from their parents. Then I graduated and started working extra full time (at least 60hours a week (too much I know 🙁 ) doing something totally different from my chosen field – supporting people with learning difficulties and mental illness). I started my Masters’ degree program in 2009 and luckily found a volunteering role to work in health and safety for a company commissioned by London Councils to provide health and safety services across London – so it was like a dream come true. Then my life in health and safety kicked off and I haven’t looked back since then.

I came to Nigeria in January 2014 and started service in March 2014. We were told we could only work at a local government, ministry or in a school; and an allowance/bursary of N19800 per month (about a $100) all of which I spend on data plan and clearly not enough to see me through a day! I have a car to fuel and life to live. Apart from the bad income,  you need to see what my local government looks like! How on earth would I have coped spending 1 year in a place with serious lack of technology and constant lack of power (electricity). Rumour had it they resumed work when they liked as there was nothing to do. Nothing to do in a Local Government? In a country that lacks stable electricity, water and has an abundance of bad roads? Hmmm….

With the NYSC thing, we were supposed to attend CD (community development) once a week (I chose Fridays), attend a general CD day every last Friday of the month, and submit a clearance letter from your PPA (place of primary assignment) between 1st and 7th of every month. Clearance always went fast and easy except on 2 unfortunate occasions – let me just say I didn’t beg my way out. I put up a front that made the women wonder what planet I was from. My first general CD was a nightmare. We stood for hours doing nothing and then got our cards signed and we were sent off. I thought to myself, is this what I have to go through every Friday? I decided to sign up for SAED (Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development). I had the option of choosing to learn to make soap, go into catering, clothes making and a few other things I wasn’t interested in. I already knew how to make clothes and alot of Nigerian dressmakers have bad finishing techniques so I decided more dressmaking classes wasn’t for me. Instead I chose to learn sign language – this way I would be able to communicate easily with the deaf (I once had a deaf boyfriend so making this choice was only natural 😉 ). I have now been learning sign language for the last 9months – I am no pro but at least I can have a fairly decent conversation with a deaf person yipee! One good thing from NYSC yeah?

General CD days must be spent at the Local Government NYSC office. Office? We spend hours hanging around the stairs, sitting at the balcony or hanging around the compound. Sometimes in the rain, sometimes in very hot sunny weather. I tried not to complain as that’s what we were forced to promise via the NYSC anthem but inside me I felt punished and very unhappy. When 3-4 hours of hanging around was up, we would hustle to get our cards signed. While we waited, there was no rest facilities, no sufficient sitting areas and definitely no respect from the workers. You need to use the toilet? Forget it. The only toilet available was always under lock and key. Luckily I stay very near my local givernment, a few times I had to go home just to use the toilet. Apart from the fact that we suffered for hours, we also got screamed at by the workers for very flimsy reasons and trust me they expected you to beg and beg but me being me I remained defiant. I never begged as I never did anything wrong – in my mind anyway.

So the only perks I got from NYSC was the fact that I was considered “Government pikin (child)”. I got stopped by VIO (Vehicle Inspection Office) or police a few times while driving (for no apparent reason), sometimes I got asked for something for the night or weekend, I never spoke too much, never brought out my license (even though I had one), rather, I would bring out my NYSC ID and wow, they just let me go! See magic! Now this is the only thing I’m going to miss by the time I am through with service (sobs).

Need I go on? Let me just say I am now happy as I am weeks away from passing out. When I look back at the 1 year spent “serving” my country I try not to weep as I have hardly done anything safety related and I feel like I have lost so much. On the good side, I have worked really hard to rebrand my mum’s school and things are looking really good at the school. But then you might wonder why I have written on my experiences as a corper? It is because Nigeria needs a change from the top (first and foremost) to the bottom. Work and public places doesn’t have to be a nightmare! A lot of Nigerian workplaces and those open to the public desperately needs a revamp and a functioning health and safety system. If not,…..

Dear Nigerians,
#BeHSEWise