Now about the other segment of the NYSC—SAED.
The SAED which stands for skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development is actually the scheme’s initiative of enabling corpers acquire skills for self-employment. In camp, we heard a lot of ‘get a skill and be empowered’ talks which often goes on to be about the lack of job opportunities. And so the need to be your own boss, basically, was the message. A wide range of skills were made available for to choose from ranging from cosmetology, cooking, IT, craft making, just to mention a few. I actually had quite a bit of a hard time picking one but I eventually chose craft making.
I guess I just really liked the whole idea of creating something. The lessons went on after each seminar we had in the day and I can say although the learning process is supposed to be a continuous one after leaving camp, I had learnt a couple of things from creating purses and bags to flats and accessories using Ankara fabric before the three weeks elapsed. I later decided to do short courses in IT and HSE (Health, Safety & Environment) after leaving camp just to give the CV “a boost.”
Towards the final week in camp, we were expected to showcase what we had learnt and present them to the camp officials as a group. It was a fun day because there were so many beautiful crafts displayed by my group.
As the day for the passing out occasion drew nearer, we got our first allawee. The queue obviously turned out to be the worst ever in the camp. Trust us Nigerians, when money is involved there is no tomorrow. It must be collected today. It was quite a drag but we all eventually received our payment.
On the day we were to leave camp, after so many days and nights spent practicing for the parade, the day was finally here to prove that we haven’t been playing uno. The governor arrived and in no-time all the small talk was over and we paraded and moved on to receive our letters of PPA (Place of Primary Assignment) which is basically where each of us would be spending the rest of the service year serving the nation. There were different emotions as each of us received our letters. Some cried, some laughed and some well, just indifferent. I was indifferent because unlike many others, mine didn’t actually have a defined place that I would be reporting to. All I could take from the letter was that I would teach. Just before we were dismissed, the camp director announced that the Lagos corpers should report to the state’s secretariat with immediate effect as there was a limited amount of slots for those who would be receiving the state allowance.
[We were also expected to sign our names in a book which would serve as an evidence of service. It was called ‘the book of life.’ What a name!]
The frenzy that followed as the letters were handed to us was just as expected. Every one of us who was a Lagos corper fought our way through to get into the next bus. It was all part of the fun of camp and I was truly going to miss camp.
By late noon, I had arrived Lagos. Of course I didn’t report immediately as advised. I couldn’t imagine carrying my box all the way, after an exhausting journey from Oyo. I decided to start the hustle the very next day. Upon arriving the secretariat the following morning, I was greeted by another long ‘corper queue’ and as I enquired to confirm what the queue was for, it was for the very reason I had come there. The slots had already been taken. Like I was not expecting to hear that. Apparently, a lot of us came straight from camp the previous day to collect numbers as the slots were handed out by numbers.
“So the 600 slots has been filled just between yesterday and today?” I asked myself. I felt bad about it. I should have come the previous day to get the number. How hard could that be? I thought. The search for a PPA commenced and with time I got to know that I didn’t even have to stress it as my letter was soon interpreted. I was to teach at a government junior secondary school and so that automatically qualified me to be a recipient of the state salary. But not arriving early still had it consequences but a friend from camp helped put me through a staff at the secretariat and I was well on my way to receiving allawee from two separate sources. Yay!
Locating my PPA was quite an arduous task and I needed to do it sooner as the clock was ticking on me because I had to sort it out and then head to my local government area for a full registration.
The NYSC and its endless registrations!
The local government is the designated place for the CDS meetings (CDS=Community development service). This is basically that part of the scheme where one can take up both individual and/or group projects focused on solving a need in just about any area of interest. It could be providing infrastructure to school kids or even providing borehole water supply to a community. I didn’t do any though. But some who did got recognition from the state government.
Each and every one of us was entitled to joining a group we liked back in camp but as I got to the local government office to do my registration, the woman in charge automatically placed me in a group I didn’t even hear of in camp—SERVICOM. It was one founded by Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria in a bid to checkmate the activities of public organizations. It was always boring (reminded me so much of the camp seminars) attending the meetings and I couldn’t even risk not being in attendance because it greatly influenced the qualification to receive the monthly allawee. Repeatedly going MIA on CDS could equate to ‘no pay’ and in worst cases, an extra month or more spent in the scheme. Our meeting days was Fridays and it was just the perfect day for CDS. As time went on, a lot of the national holidays fell on Fridays so there were so many ‘off days’ for the activity.
With time, I located my PPA and was given a resumption date. I was to take basic science for about four periods each week. As time went on, the principal asked me to also take agricultural science as there was no teacher to teach the subject. More workload! The teaching wasn’t the problem. It was actually writing the teaching outline. It was absolutely necessary as oftentimes, we had inspectors coming over to see how we deliver the teaching to the students and they would demand to see the outline made. On two separate occasions, they visited my school. The inspector who came the first time didn’t think I was doing a great job but by the second visit, I had gotten better at teaching.
With time, the objective of CDS got changed to a national agenda—U REPORT. This was a kind of forum created to get the opinions of communities on several issues such as power supply, security and so on. News reached us that the agenda was put in place by the federal government and we were asked to go into the streets and get a lot of people to sign up on it. For me, it was exciting…doing something I would normally not do—stop a stranger, talk about the forum and get him/her to sign up. Although I had to do a lot of talking trying to convince some people, it was a good challenge in the end. So we had all other plans/activities for the group cancelled by the Local government inspector.
Soon, the agenda was used as the prerequisite for receiving allawee. They got us hooked for good! At the end of each month, we were each expected to submit about 50 valid numbers and sometimes the LGI would even go as far as dialing some to verify they were genuine numbers.
He really had our time.
As a corper, one of the most dreaded thing was not receiving ‘the alat’ when it was time for payment. The feeling of losing out on the one thing that literally lights up your face was avoided at all cost. It’s worse when your colleagues say they have received theirs and you are yet to receive yours. Really heartbreaking. But I was told it’s received eventually. Maybe not in all cases. There were cases where you would have to write a plea before the issue would be addressed.
At my PPA, we had the usual inter-house sports competition and my house came top in everything. It really felt good particularly after spending extra time training my house for the march past. It was a memorable day.
There was another day when the principal of my school celebrated the promotion of the vice principal as principal at another school. I didn’t know parties were thrown on such occasions. She was Yoruba and so was many other teachers. So I needn’t be surprised. Yoruba people and parties go hand-in-hand. And yes, they celebrated in a big way with lots of delicious dishes to go round. They also had this time when they exchanged gifts. I was surprised I was also given items to take home. Aside these two days, every other day at my PPA was normal. Sometimes too boring and sometimes quite entertaining—when the students were naughty and I had to flog them and restore them back to being good kids. I was the only corper posted there. The teachers were great though. No hassles like a couple of my colleagues often complained about theirs.
During the scheme, there were so many programs that we had to attend just to get clearance for allawee. The scheme literally treated us most times like they owned us. Literally. Like if you were asked to do something, there was always a consequence attached to not doing it. Weeks before the final passing out, we were asked to report to the camp for parade practice. It wasn’t compulsory but hey, it’s parade, so I was always in attendance till the passing out ceremony day. We got our certificates, took pictures and on the 15th of October 2015, I was officially done with NYSC without any outstanding allawee or issues.
NYSC was a wonderful experience. For me, it was a really god time to test my strengths and be open to trying out new things and yes, taking risks—working with INEC (I’ll be sharing my INEC experience in another post)
Here I go again making promises…let’s just hope this one doesn’t keep me hostage.
How was your own experience? Feel free to share in the comment section.