I forgot in the last post to write a few lines about social life in camp. I think I will leave much of it to your imagination. But, see this picture below. WOW, right? That was the NYSC Mr Macho Man competition of my camp.
The winners of these pageants usually get prezzies and will compete with other winners from other state camps. I would’ve taken pictures of the female pageants but I was mostly in mammy market eating suya till I ended up in toilet. No, I meant pit latrine.
The 4-PHASE JOURNEY
As we are told, your NYSC year has 4 important phases, which you must pass through in order to be certified as a completing Corp Member when the service year is over.
Currently, there are 3 batches of Corpers every year, meaning, you have a choice of starting at 3 different times in a year. Batch A Corpers usually start from around February period. B people start around June/July, and C October/November. So for example, if you are looking to join the February batch, you will need to make your trip to Nigeria for registration sometimes around end of December and January. Always check the website ---- www.nysc.gov.ng for updates and announcements.
PHASE 1 - CAMP
The first is your orientation camp, which you MUST attend. I have spent most of this blog space on orientation camp gist. So you have an idea. The camp ends with a sort of military winding down parade. On the day you pass out of camp, you are given your ‘posting letter’. This is the letter you take to your ‘PPA’ – Place of Primary Assignment. Your PPA is where you will work for the next 10 months. Because the NYSC year is supposed to be a year of your selfless service to your nation Nigeria, you are most likely to be posted to areas where your help as a young person is needed most. It’s sort of a charity work. Therefore, you will find that about maybe 80% of your fellow Corpers are posted to rural areas, where they can help build schools and teach. But if you are serving in Lagos for example, the probability that you would be posted to a village is very slim, because most of Lagos is metropolitan. And really, as a foreign graduate, you would most likely be posted to Lagos or Abuja if you register on time and choose either as your first choice - although I always tell people, nothing is guaranteed!
Now even if you get posted to a good private company and not a school or government office, such as banks or oil companies, do not rejoice yet at camp, for thou knowest not whether thou shalt be rejected or not!
PHASE 2 – Primary Assignment
Most Corpers will tell you this is the most difficult part of the one year. It is not the work you will be doing that is difficult per se. It is getting that job, an accommodation and living on the meagre monthly salary of N9,750 (I think!) – which is around £40/$60 USD. If you are lucky, you could be posted to a company willing to pay you a monthly salary too. But expect it to be around £100/$140 USD as well. Nothing major.
So basically, you are posted to a fancy company, fancy company doesn’t want Corpers, and before you even get there to show them your posting letter in your extreme excitement, a rejection letter is waiting for you. That is the story of 90% of Corpers, believe it or not. Apparently, this prepares you for the real world, because you will face a lot of rejections in life. So this phase teaches you persistence and perseverance. Now I have a lot of reservations about this. But this is not the time to pour down my 2 cents about NYSC as a programme. I will do that in my subsequent posts. I do know a few top people there in the system, so I plan to write my own proposal of how it should be run and submit to them. Anyhoo. That’s for another day.
Now, as a foreign student, there is a way you can save yourself from all this hullabaloo. The best thing to do is to PLAN very well before you leave your fancy country of abode. Plan on where you will live. Where do you want to work? You are allowed to bring a letter from a company requesting that they want to employ you for your service year. So, this is where you look for those uncles and aunties or their friends who have companies in your field of specialisation, and can write you a letter of request that you will give to NYSC. That way, NYSC will post you to them because they have requested for you, and they obviously will not reject you. For example, I have a friend who is working for his friend’s start up IT company in Lagos. He had a letter from the company and NYSC posted him there. He will do his service year there at the company.
So, is this an abuse of the system? I don’t know. What do you think?
If you decide it’s best to leave things to fate and go anywhere you are posted to in the state, that’s also fine. It’s not every time they reject people. But so far I have only one friend who wasn’t rejected when posted to a good company.
I must also mention, frankly, the importance of ‘who you know’. Most times these fancy companies reject Corpers because the Corpers don’t know anyone at the companies they were posted to. The problem is, NYSC posts too many people into these fancy places, and they are usually more than needed. As a result, rejection becomes imminent for some. Say a company requested 10 corpers, NYSC will probably send 20 or more. So automatically 10 or more will be rejected. The chosen 10 will be a result of the battle of the fittest. Who knows who. Again I’ve been told you can’t blame NYSC. Corpers lobby unethically for certain choice companies, and some NYSC officials post them there, creating extra candidates for these companies. It’s easy to play the blame game. Wait till it’s your time. These are real issues that are not discussed out there in the open. But we all know they happen.
In fact, your case will still be better than most of your Nigerian graduates / colleagues. Most Nigerian graduates are posted far, far away from their states of Origin; so for example, someone from Ogun State could be posted to Zamfara state in Northern Nigeria, deep into some village that does not exist on a map. They deal with culture shock and loneliness. They are probably posted to a school where none of the village kids speak English. Some of them will have no accommodation because the school may not provide. So, imagine being thrown into a village like one from the scenes of ‘The gods must be crazy’. The water is brown. Most likely no electricity. And they must live and work there for10 months. I’m not making these up. I have friends I met in camp who are in these conditions, deep in some Oyo state village. Getting paid under N10k every month by NYSC.
I mention this so you would be grateful when you find yourself in Lagos or Abuja making those secretariat journeys. You would be grateful you are not making them in some forest.
If you are rejected, you take your rejection letter to the local government secretariat, and you now have to go out there and find an employer for yourself. After you’ve found one, they will write you an acceptance letter which you will take again to the secretariat. The whole process of receiving a response from your original company, getting rejected, and looking for another can take up to 2 months, or even longer. The sad thing about this is that you also do not get paid during this period. To get paid your monthly meagre allowance, you have to be registered, get a ‘clearance’ letter from your employer and submit it to the secretariat between the 1st and 10th of every month. So if you can’t be registered yet because you have no employer yet, how do you get your pay?
In the case you are accepted, you take your acceptance letter to your local government secretariat, and they register you officially into the local govt. Then you are also registered for a programme called ‘CDS’- Community Development Service.
Phase 3 - ‘CDS’- Community Development Service.
As a Corp member you are expected to engage in community service. I can’t say much on this because I am still yet to belong to one due to registration lapses. I will update you on how it goes once I’ve signed up for it. Apparently you can choose which CD group want to belong to, but I have heard conflicting stories of how CD groups were chosen for some. There are major CD groups, like established charities, such as UNICELF (sorry that was a joke. Our NYSC Official at camp used to call if UNICELF instead of UNICEF). Apparently you can choose these from camp especially when they come to give you lectures. The stories I hear is that if you are not in any of these major /special CD groups, your CD group will be chosen for you...which sucks really. I don’t know how true that is; I don’t plan to join the special cds but I will let you know how my own selection process goes. According to friends who are already in CD groups, you get one day off in a week from work to do your CD work. You could be teaching in a school or educating a community about AIDS. I have a friend who works at a bank Monday-Thursday, and does his CD work at a local village school in Aja (Lekki Area) every Friday. These are compulsory if you want to graduate from the school of NYSC after a year. Your CD group will mark registers, and if you are absent at certain number of times, you may be asked to repeat the service year or get 3 months added to your service year. Something like that. However, you may be lucky and get a CD group that is not too strict. I don’t want to encourage you to skip CD groups, so my advice is, go, enjoy it, do it for charity. Take pics. Shoot videos. Hug sick babies. If Princess Diana could do it, you can too. See it as your one chance to touch humanity.
Phase 4 - Passing Out Parade
This will not be done until the last 2 weeks of the service year. So, I can’t say much on it. I will write about it in due time. But from ex-Corpers, I’ve gathered that during this time, Corpers practice for the passing out parade. They are reminded about all the parade skills learnt months before at orientation camp. Apparently there are lectures as well. After the passing out parade, NYSC issues a discharge certificate to completing Corps Members.