· DEMANDS FOR THE FULL MOBILIZATION OF ALL ELIGIBLE GRADUATES
· REMOVAL OF THE COMPULSION PLACED ON THE SCHEME THEREBY MAKING IT VOLUNTARY
The Education Rights campaign (ERC) Ondo State Chapter condemns the slashing of the Prospective Corps Members (PCM) for the NYSC Batch B by 67%. We consider this as anti-student because many graduates of various institutions nationwide have already spent more than a year at home waiting to be mobilized for service. This is also related to the deliberate action of the government to “kill” public education.
The NYSC, conceived in the aftermath of the 1967-1970 civil war with the objective of fostering national unity, is a mandatory scheme for graduates of higher institutions who are not more than the age of 30 without which they can neither proceed for postgraduate program nor seek employment. Consequently, by slashing the PCM, thousands of graduates would be stranded at home, unable to either proceed to augment their qualifications or seek employment. This is unacceptable and we demand a retraction of the decision.
As an immediate step, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) demands the full mobilization of all graduates eligible for the Batch B national youth service scheme. Doing otherwise would amount to mortgaging the future of the nation’s youth.
Furthermore, the idea of a compulsory national youth service that all persons must observe regardless of their individual preference is undemocratic and consequently should not be tolerated under a purportedly democratic milieu. We therefore demand an amendment to the Act setting up the NYSC to make it a voluntary service instead of a mandatory scheme. This is necessary to ensure that those who do not wish to serve, regardless of whether or not they have attained the age of 30, can easily be exempted so they can proceed with their life.
We call on prospective Corp members to get organized and take to the street to express their dissatisfaction and anger. Mass meetings and peaceful protest marches should be organized on campuses and to NYSC offices at the state capitals and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja to stop this attempt to mortgage our future. The Students Unions and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) must play a central role in this mobilization by convening public meetings which should be opened to all students organizations, including left and socialist groups, with a view to discussing strategy to defeat this policy. The labour movement especially the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) as well as staff unions in higher institutions must speak up by condemning this policy and be prepared to take mass actions in solidarity with students if government refuses to reverse it.
Despite the N66.83bn budgetary allocation for NYSC, the frequent complaint has been inadequate funding which delayed the batch A stream B till July before being mobilized and hence, forced the batch B PCMs to wait till November. In the same vein, the same excuse is also being canvassed to justify the slashing of batch B PCMs by 67% (2/3).
The outcome of this is that only 33% (1/3) of the eligible graduates from each tertiary institution nationwide would be mobilized this November while the remaining 67% (2/3) will have to wait till 2017 before being mobilized meanwhile these set of students have spent more than a year at home after graduation.
For instance, Nnamdi Azikwe Universty, on 4th of October, released an Internal Memorandum inviting deans of each faculty for a balloting as the PCM of the institution has been slashed from 2,314 to 894. The future of the graduates of the institution has been turned into a bazaar which requires balloting. Also at BOWEN University, reports on the 5th of October has also shown that the PPC of the institution has been reduced from 956 to 367 while the Obafemi Awolowo University (ACE ONDO extension inclusive) which has a minimum of 5,000 graduates will have to mobilize less than 1,500 students.
Despite the challenges faced before and during the service program, the N19, 800 monthly allowance being paid to serving Corp members is too small to sustain them especially during this time of economic recession, deregulation of fuel price, naira devaluation, economic hardship and high cost of living. Even this amount is rarely paid without delays. This year, many Corp members were owed several months of their state allowances. Some state governments even stopped out rightly payment of the allowance citing economic recession.
Nigeria’s public education sector (which should be funded with at least 26% budgetary allocation as recommended by UNESCO) has continued to get worse and there has not been any plan(s) to resuscitate the sector. This trend, together with plans to sell national assets, is a clear indication of the deficiencies of any government under the system of capitalism. This is why it is necessary, even as we continue to fight to defend the socio-economic rights of students and working people, to also build a political movement to overthrow capitalism and enthrone an equitable and democratic socialist society under which public education can be provided free and made accessible to all.
Hence, ERC frowns at the anti-students’ policies of the 43 years old scheme in its attempt to deprive the youths of their rights. We see no reason why the NYSC should not be adequately funded as it serves as first-grade experience for fresh graduates in the labour market and no alternative has yet been provided for the scheme.
We hereby demand, as a matter of urgency and necessity, the mobilization of all eligible graduates. Also, we demand the adequate funding of the scheme for proper and functional running of the scheme, including the raising of the monthly allowance of serving Corp members to an amount capable of ensuring they enjoy a decent living standard during the period of service. Also, we demand the removal of the compulsion placed on NYSC.
Owoyomi Damilola Owot
Education Rights Campaign (ERC)
Ondo State Chapter.