Civil Service-Ise Agunbaniro

11 Jan

Something I find very interesting about this country is that despite it’s challenges, difficulties, and struggles, there is an institution in place called civil service that seems to work very well and be well respected. Anyone who attends a university or polytechnic university in this country must perform a compulsory year of civil service for the federal government upon completion of their education. The National Youth Service Corps sends youths to a place usually quite distant from where they grew up to experience other cultures and help those in need. Civil service can range from helping out in a local government office to building infrastructure. All NYSC participants are required to attend three to four weeks of training prior to beginning their work. They are then sent to their destination (usually unknown to them until about two weeks before departure) to begin work. They are given a very small stipend for living expenses, and must manage an extremely limited budget for the year to feed themselves, etc. Civil Service work is not easy-days usually begin around 5AM and last until the evening. NYSC resembles the armed forces in a way as members are required to wear uniforms and are frequently lined up in military-style rows. I can imagine the national response to an introduction of a civil service requirement in the United States-reactions would range from outrage due to lack of freedom, to servitude, to a waste of government spending. Although you could make the argument that this Americanized argument would be justified, I find it incredible that citizens of Nigeria willingly complete their civil service requirement with pride, despite the fact that the government situation in Nigeria has completely tired and exhausted many of its citizens and left the country abandon with little glory.

National Youth Service Corps Members

Nicholas Kristof, a writer I really respect summed up what I’ve been trying to say in a different way in his most recent book Half The Sky: “But to tackle an issue effectively, you need to understand it-and it’s impossible to understand an issue by simply reading about it. You need to see it first hand, even live in its midst. One of the great failings of the American education system, in our view, is that young people can graduate from university without any understanding of poverty at home or abroad. Study-abroad programs tend to consist of herds of students visiting Oxford or Florence or Paris. We believe that universities should make it a requirement that all graduates spend at least some time in the developing world, either by taking a “gap year” or by studying abroad. If more Americans worked for a summer teaching English at a school like Mukhtar’s in Pakistan, or working at a hospital like HEAL Africa in Congo, our entire society would have a richer understanding of the world around us. And the rest of the world might also hold a more positive view of Americans.” -Kristof, Half the Sky p. 88

8 Responses to “Civil Service-Ise Agunbaniro”

  1. Karen Born January 12, 2011 at 5:57 PM #

    I couldn’t agree with you more on how many Americans would probably react to that…especially since there is no history of it, or current part of the established culture. It would probably remind some Americans of a draft, where they are forced to do something, maybe resulting in some fleeing. With so many other American rights, freedoms and privileges, it probably would be challenged, but I think it would have valuable merit in our culture. Nicholas Kristof makes some very valid points…genuinely intriguing!

  2. Toun January 12, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

    Some of the questions I have been asked by Americans include ‘How come you speak English’ ‘Do Nigerians live in huts’ ‘Do you have fast food in your country?’ and a host of seemingly endless tiresome questions.I invariably came to the conclusion that the average American was quite uneducated about Africa. Many actually think the whole continent is a country. So I actually do love your blog because for once I see a genuine sense of wanting to understand, maybe not necessarily appreciate, a culture and a group of people. This is rare and unique to u guys. Also, Nicholas Kristof does makes a lot of sense!

  3. Someone January 16, 2011 at 9:12 AM #

    The NYSC is actually quite different from the Civil Service. The Civil Service is the whole government bureaucracy and its workers.

    In any case, I like the direction of your thoughts. The NYSC was fashioned after the American Peace Corp program (which however is voluntary). You take someone and you put them somewhere else in the country in order to make them appreciate another aspect of the country before they enter the labour market. Maybe it can work in America too. Imagine making every student have a “year abroad” in a poor neighbourhood in another state.

    Nice blog you have. Enjoy Nigeria, and please write and write more.

  4. Tomi January 16, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

    The youth service year was one of the highlights of my life.One of the advantages of the whole exercise is it helps you discover another part of the country and you begin to understand that Nigeria is not only Lagos,and that other tribes do exist and are all a part of this great nation of ours. It teaches diversity and mutual tolerance in a way no history book can!

  5. Seun February 10, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

    Hmm…well written and I totally agree with the exerpt from Nicholas. You have done well. Keep it up.

  6. sailorscout1986 April 28, 2011 at 6:34 AM #

    i didn’t study in nigeria, but i have the passport and would love to work there, so i’m looking into doing the civil service programme. having been there 3 times and stayed each time for quite a while, i miss the country. it’s been 5 yrs since i’ve visited and i can’t wait to go back!

  7. Noel December 3, 2011 at 12:27 AM #

    High Kayode,

    I am ipressed by your language skills. I hope you return to Nigeria one day. This civil service requirement is a vestige from the British colonial era. Also when a Nigerian graduates from university, his or her degree certificate is invalid until they completed this one year mandatory civil service. All employers will ask for your civil service disharge papaers before considering you for employment.

  8. Aleci August 9, 2012 at 3:01 PM #

    Hi Kevin, I stumbled upon your blog today while searching for images of the NYSC. I am interested in repurposing your image that appears in this blog post and wonder if you could glet in touch with me as I was unable to locate an email address for you on your blog. Thank you so much!

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