Sunday, 23 July 2017

Service Year Dairy: My Journey Into NYSC

By Iorkyaa Lohodedoo

You do know that many a students who are bent on necessarily acquiring university training and certificates do so with a sense of pride as it will avail them the opportunity of been enclothed in the NYSC uniform. My testimony is no different from this maxim. Thankfully today, graduates from the polytechnics with the HND certificates have been enjoined in this scheme, yet there usually exist the degree-HND dichotomy among graduates once deployed to serve, especially during the days of the orientation course at the camp.
It was in 2015,after successfully graduation from the university in the late 2014, the lingering thought that preoccupied my mind was that of when and where shall I serve.  Understandably no employer would ordinarily prefer to offer me an employment opportunity granted that my stay with them will be short-lived.  This was majorly a discouraging factor for me to get engaged or gainfully employed; except for the non-well-paying jobs that little or regards on my certificate, skills and boatload of knowledge.
Thus, I wondered everyday palpably in thoughts and words. Considerably I became a regular customer with the different existing social media platforms such as 2go, Facebook, Whatsapp etc such that many who took cognizance of my usual patronage couldn’t help but label me with the name 2GO master.  Well I can tell you the name was befitting of my attitude and I accepted everything with equanimity.
Just to know, time was fast spent and the bells were ringing for my call-up for the mandatory youth service scheme.  The feeling and fright that greeted me at the time of printing the call-up letter was indescribable. To say I felt jittery would be a grave understatement. Alas, it came alive that I was posted to Ogun state. So I haveneda deep sigh of relieve. The menacing evil of the Boko haram sect in some parts of the far north eastern states had made feel deathly afraid of serving in any of the northern states.
Ordinarily, I’d love to serve in the south west region due to their announced and pronounced measure of intelligence.  As a lover of knowledge, I felt service year in the south western region would be a fair opportunity for me to leverage on and make exploits and help garnish my writing skills and as well meet with other profound academic standards.
Literally it was a joyous moment for me knowing that I was getting closer to my destiny in life. Appositely, it took no time for me to get prepared and ready for the mammoth task ahead. Family and friends were happy and as well looked at me as a beacon of hope. I was quite impressed with the show of love, felicitations accorded me and the confidence reposed in me on this occasion. It really turned me into something of a celebrity.
Now it was time for me to depart. As I reminiscent on few things, I felt like staying back because the thought of staying away from family and friends to a virgin land was unimaginable and unbearable. Whilst the obligation was one that I could not shirk, bearing in mind that that it was the only sure way of getting a career and lucrative job in Nigeria.
The journey which was earlier estimated to last for 15hours ended in 22hours due to some hiccups and other teething challenges that crept up in the cause of the travel. While on transit I met and immediately became friend with an exuberant looking and God-fearing lady named Miss Mary Verimbe, who seemingly shared major characteristics with me. She was so endearing, lovely and above all kind to me. All through the journey she facilitated the financial wherewithal for my feeding drinks and other logistics.

Registration of prospective corps members began a day after our arrival and the officials were majorly bums and pundits.  The camp environment was densely populated with a herald of graduates from different walks of life, family background and academic disciplines.  The serenity and comfort peculiar to the five star camp at sagamu was just second to none in Nigeria.  Soon after registration we were issued the NYSC kits and so we delved into the habit of snapping and posting. It’s simply a habit that was nearly cultivated by nearly all who were at the camp.  Almost everybody had a good gadget to enable them in this regard.  Even though I borrowed mine just to fulfill this righteousness, it still made me proud.
The hullabaloo at the camp was that of parade, matching and some other camp paramilitary training. We had little time for sleep and leisure. All activities were regimentary. My interest however was not rapt in any of such activities except for writing and presentation of articles which I found myself actively involved. 
Tick tock, 21 days came by and it was now time to face the real task. According to reports, serving in waterside [one of the local governments in the states] was likened to committing hara-kiri.  In so far I was not familiar with places in the state, nothing of sort made sense to me. Rather I was more focused, resolute and ambivalent in this quest and in all wise.
Upon receipt of the deployment letter, I quickly rushed down to the very end to confirm of the local government of my posting and behold it reads ObafemiOwode local government.  It was obligatory for me to serve in a school. Be that as it may I was filled with gladness even though others were not comfortable with their posting and complained vehemently. They had lobbied for their posting and the outcome was all to their dismay and disappointment.
Quickly I rushed down to the car park to meet up with the Bus which was provided by the catholic community incamp and we were all driven to the owode local government for onward registration as other corps members took turns to report to their local governments as well. The very few friends and relationships established during camp were murdered due to the yawning distance that came as a result of the posting.
After completion of registration at the local government secretariat, then came the challenge of acceptance. Almost every place that I visited had an excuse to offer to deter me away.  I felt rejected with no place to lay my head.  Commercial bus drivers cum okada riders really enjoyed my patronage.  For them, I was a massive customer.  Just barely two weeks into the service year, the 19k which was given to me at the camp was consumed because of the consistent tossing around for a place to serve.

In order to leapfrog unforeseen unhealthy expenditures, I decided to settle for the least of schools where I was provided an accommodation. As the only male teacher in the school, I had a wide range of responsibilities cutting across both the primary and secondary schools. So much that I was saddled with the responsibility of teaching English language  and preferably four other subjects of my choice; as well as coordinating of drama, quiz competition, assembly to mention just a few, just for the monthly stipend of 5k. The area had been reportedly said to be in blackout nearly three years ago even before my arrival and there was little or no glimmer of hope for power to be restored anytime soon. The import here was for me to purchase a generator set or alternatively relinquish on my energy consuminggadget [which I complied all gladly] and stay out of touch for a whole one year.  So a gruesome experience, I thought.
Worst still, the majority of the students and pupils were those who understood the Yoruba language, which I had no knowledge about. Thus making the teaching learning exercise futile and ineffective. I could manage to bring them up in the best way I could and earnestly prayed for divine intervention. Strangely enough, the parents likewise were illiterates who had never been to the four corners of formal institutions of learning. P.T.A meetings were normally conducted in the Yoruba language and later translated into English for me to document for records.
My responsibilities popped up soon as I started attending the community Development service [CDS]. I became the Secretary General of the Gender Vanguard group; a position I served genuinely and incredibly.
The niggling worry on me during this time was on how to save up for the rainy days in the face of the flux and fall of the economy given the enormous financial troubling waters. Truth be told, the take home was something that could never take me home. At last service year was over and hell it was like invested futile efforts. Obviously I had nothing to show for it except for the excruciating experiences, fetish stories and practices around and my small Ghana must go bag containing my clothes. Still, I could sit and appreciate the exposure and experience the service year could afford me and again the personalities whom I met that influenced my thought and style of life in a more positive and prosperous way. Then I can say the service year cum the experience was worth it even though I was faced with a flood of challenging and interesting responsibilities, one can safely say it has immensely helped in the buildup of my career and the personality I desire to become tomorrow.
May your experience be a better one.

1 comment:

Israel Azua said...

A wonderful piece. Often times a change of environment is accompanied with a healthy amount of challenges. Yet, these challenges pour into you that which is needed for the transition to maturity.

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