The active engagement of young people – such as through Nigeria’s national youth service corps (NYSC) – is without a shadow of a doubt central to achieving peaceful and inclusive societies as envisioned by the United Nations 2030 sustainable development agenda
Nigeria’s one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was established in 1973 (in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War) by the Nigerian government with the mandate to raise a class of patriotic, morally and physically disciplined Nigerian youths. Corps members, as participants under the scheme are called are Nigerians under the age of 30 who have graduated from universities and polytechnics (at home or abroad) engaged in nation building and community development processes through the scheme.
Amongst others, the objectives of the scheme are to do with inculcating discipline, encouraging self-reliance and enhancing national economic development. Others are promoting national unity, removing prejudice and developing a common destiny among all Nigerians irrespective ethno-religious differences. More so, the service year is divided into four cardinal activities through which the objectives of the scheme are achieved, namely: an orientation course, primary assignment, Community Development Service (CDS), winding up and passing out ceremony.
Participants in the scheme are posted to various Nigerian states other than their own states of origin where they are expected to mix with people of different ethnic and social backgrounds as well as learn the culture and traditions of the inhabitants of the locations they are posted to. During this period, corps members live among members of their respective host communities, executing community developmental projects – jointly with the people of their host communities – which facilitate unity, integration and the spirit of selfless service among Nigerians.
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Community Development Service (CDS) is one of the four key aspects of the scheme through which corps members contribute positively to the development of their host communities thru the period of their national service. This aspect of the NYSC scheme ensure corps members participate in activities to do with the improvement of rural community life and developing the spirit of entrepreneurship in the corps members themselves, aimed at inculcating in the Nigerian youths, the ideals and capacities for leadership such as endurance, selflessness, community service, national patriotism as well as creativity.
Ochika Onuche John, a graduate of Physics Education from Benue State University was the president of the 2018 batch ‘A’ Sustainable Development Goals Community Development Service (SDGs-CDS) group at Jos-South local government area, in Plateau state. The group which was made-up of about 40 corps members was actively involved in activities to do with advocacy, sensitization, as well as mentoring of members of their host community aimed at the successful realization of all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On the 16th of December 2018, for example, the group in collaboration with the Vom Christian Hospital and the School of Nursing, Vom embarked on a medical outreach in Vom community; which focused on curbing the menace of alcoholism and drug abuse among members of the community – in line with SDG 3: good health and well-being. “One of the corps members in the [SDGs-CDS] group who was posted to Vom, observed an increasing number of death casualties in the community, caused by chronic consumption of alcohol and a poor mentality towards orthodox medicine,” says John.
Thus, during the one-day medical outreach, the young corps members sensitized members of the community on the various health effects of alcoholism and the negative consequences of drug abuse. They provided free HIV testing, counselling, as well as other medical tests to over eighty members of the community.
In today’s world, there are 1.2 billion people aged between 15 and 24 years – accounting for not less than 16 per cent of the global population. Thus, the active engagement of young people – such as through the national youth service corps scheme – is without a shadow of a doubt central to achieving peaceful, inclusive and stable societies as envisioned by the 2030 sustainable development agenda.
“When you look at the SDGs, you will see that all the 17 goals are critical to youth development and they have direct impacts on children and youths. So, young people have a critical role to play in the 2030 sustainable development agenda., And, this is what the Sustainable Development Goals Community Development Service group (SDGs-CDS) has been trying to achieve at the community level,” said Dorcas Asuku, a graduate of water resources engineering, from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and corps member serving in Jos-South community, Plateau state.
At the end of the 2018 Batch ‘A’ national service year, 2 weeks ago, the SDGs-CDS group in Jos-South local government area commissioned a renovated administrative block at St. Jarlath`s Pilot Nursery and Primary School in Bukuru area of the local government area including 20 sets of 3-seater seats, a Nigerian flag, and a sign post for the school. The president of the group, John, said the project was in line with Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. “When we first visited the school we met the pupils sitting on bare floor and they lacked good learning environment. That was why we focused on goal 4,” John added.
Asuku hopes rural communities will get to know more about the goals and targets of the 2030 sustainable development agenda and thus continue to engage with the process of the implementation of the agenda; since the efforts towards achieving SDGs could be narrowed down to community level, which means the little things people do at grassroots will make an ultimate impact.
“I just hope that the SDGs and what they are all about can be incorporated into our various school curriculums, so that students will get to know about the 2030 sustainable development agenda; doing so will help create awareness among them and can even help to pattern their career choices. Thus, instead of relying on the international community, we can generate a workforce that can drive the effective implementation of the SDGs ourselves,” observed Asuku.
This reporter, Abdullahi Tsanni, was a member of the 2018 Batch ‘A’ corps that served in Jos-South local government, Plateau State. He was also a member of the SDGs Community Development Service (CDS) group that carried out the reported SDG-related projects in Jos-South.