NYSC Diary: From Kingston University to Iyana-Ipaja, once I got to the camp, look around, I started planning my escape route

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Are you living abroad, thinking about working in Nigeria? You’ll have to do your NYSC first. Onyi shares her first hand experiences and explains why she believes it is worth doing. While at it she doesn’t fail to her motives. The NYSC Diary Series is edited and compiled by Ediale Kingsley.

I’m known as a ‘Corper’. That’s how people in the National Youth Service Corps are referred to. The NYSC is a year-long scheme that allows Nigerian graduates the opportunity to give back to their country. It was started back in 1973 to help rebuild Nigeria after the civil war. There are three batches every year. I am in the third batch that will be finishing this summer. I’m 22 and considered young within NYSC, despite the name, it is not age based. On average, Corpers are aged between 25–31. One of the NYSC officials commented saying “It’s refreshing to actually see a youth doing youth service!”

The Youth Service process began for me last June when I flew to Abuja from Lagos to apply. Abuja is beautiful and NYSC have a large office out there as it is their head quarters. It was great to see how important the program is to Nigeria on a national level.

On returning to Lagos, I had my application approved and state of service confirmed to be Lagos. This was great, as I am already living within this state, relocating to another would have been almost impossible. The next stage was a three-week orientation camp that prepares you for your service year. It was very memorable — 21 days inside the Iyana Ipaja camp and also the ‘mammy market’ where you could get everything from pounded yam and draw soup (Ogbono soup) to the latest ‘Gucci’ handbag.

Unfortunately, at times I felt like I was entering a prison, very far from entering halls in my first year at Kingston University. The boys and girls live in separate dorms and the luxury of privacy was non-existent as bedrooms and bathrooms were all shared.

NYSC Diary: From Kingston University to Iyana-Ipaja, once I got to the camp, look around, I started planning my escape route Onyi2

Once I got to the camp and had a look around I started planning my escape route and I was not alone, there was a whole queue of people that were faking illnesses and conditions so the camp could sign them out.

The living conditions were absurd, I did not expect it to be fancy but what I did see was unspeakably unhygienic. But besides the living conditions, the atmosphere around the camp was enjoyable and it was great knowing I was not alone.

ALSO SEE: NYSC Diary: “When we entered Niger state, it felt like we went 50 years back in time, Underdeveloped yet beautiful”

There are a number of duties that need to be completed by a Corper during your service year. Once a week there are Community Development meetings (CD) my group is focused on education. This is where we are to think up innovative ideas to better our society. The last Friday of the month all the Corpers within each local government come together to discuss important matters and socialise. They also have various meetings like career fairs every week so often to really make your service year worthwhile. Finally, within the first seven days of the month I am required to submit a letter to my local government. This lets them know I have been present at my place of service, and they can continue to pay me my N20, 000 allowance. This is about £75 a month. You receive an allowance, as this is your full time job for one year.

I had wanted to complete my service year for as long as I had wanted to migrate to Nigeria. It was better to do it now than when I am 40 and a Governors wife with my 10 kids — procrastination is never the way to a better life! Plus, there are a lot of offices where it is compulsory for one to complete NYSC before being able to work. I came to Nigeria to seize an opportunity so being able to serve was perfect. Being new in Nigeria, I was often referred to, as a ‘JJC’ (Johnny Just Come), a phrase referring to those that have just arrived in the country. I didn’t have many friends, doing NYSC meant that I am a lot more exposed to meeting new people.

I’ve met some awesome people along the way and NYSC has been very insightful. It’s been a great way for me to learn about Nigeria’s history, people and way of doing things.

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