The report that the daily meal allowance of members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a meagre 600 naira while that of inmates of the Nigerian Correctional Service is N1,000 is quite sensational, considering the status of the two groups. While the youth corps member can be described as the flower of the nation, those serving in the correctional service have offended the nation and are merely given an opportunity to mend their ways. the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the prison system in his The Scarlet Letter as the “black flower of civilised society.”
But, while the report puts the position in graphic perspective, we prefer that the feeding allowance of the corps members be enhanced, while leaving that of those serving in the correctional service as it were. After all, those serving jail terms are not condemned to die from hunger, and as such should be reasonably fed well. But it is scandalous if those drafted by law to serve their fatherland are being starved, as the report indicates.
After all, by the standard of the United Nations, those who live on less than two dollars a day, are poor. And by official foreign exchange rate, two dollars is worth far higher than N600. So, it means that young graduates conscripted, as it were, to serve their fatherland are amongst the poorest of the poor. That cannot be the intention of the NYSC programme. The one-year programme, among other reasons, is geared to imbue participants with nationalism and love for their fatherland.
Why NYSC allowance should be increased, by Senate panel
Again, in their early twenties, when most of the corps members qualify to serve, the body needs highly nutritional food, for a balanced growth. Therefore, to pay a paltry N600 to feed those who need the food for a balanced growth, would achieve a direct opposite of that. At the rate of inflation, even a thousand naira daily meal allowance will barely provide two decent meals in a day. So, N600 a day is way too low for young adults who are still growing.
To remain relevant and achieve its purpose, there is need to reorganise the NYSC programme to meet the original intent of the founding fathers. While the children of the rich and well-connected serve in big establishments in metropolitan cities, the poor are literally banished to remote villages without any modern amenities. Again, while those serving in the metropolis get extra allowances from their employers, those serving in the remote areas where the services are needed make do with whatever stipend they are paid.
So, it may be difficult for those in power to appreciate that some corps members live on the paltry feeding allowance they are paid, since their own children and relatives who are posted to better places for the one year programme don’t suffer the same fate. If the programme would not be viewed as one year of suffering, then the minimum standard must be one that is liveable. Going through school, for students from poor homes, is usually stressful, and it shouldn’t continue after school, while compulsorily serving the nation. Indeed, for such poor parents, seeing their children through school is a huge task. It will be unfair to add the burden of taking care of such children who have graduated and are supposed to be serving their fatherland.
So, we urge the senate to not just decry the feeding allowance of the NYSC members and do nothing about it. It should use its privileged position to ensure that necessary resources are put in place for a better life for the corps members.
A memorable one year service could be all that is needed to imbue patriotism and love for fatherland in our NYSC members. We therefore support enhanced feeding allowance for them.
Overdue for review .