NYSC should be scrapped and replaced immediately with one year of compulsory civics for graduates of all tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
There is very little room for debate here in terms of the national emergency we have in civics. We are wasting valuable national time by producing functional civic illiterates and sending them to one year of national service before unleashing them on an atmosphere of corruption where the lack of opportunities compounds their situation. Nigeria would be far better served by investing in a year of civics for the younger generation than wasting her time and their time in NYSC.
The only snag is the fact that the Nigerian political elite have spent five decades of national life and billions to prevent the emergence of precisely the sort of citizen that one year of post graduation grounding in civics can produce. The Nigerian citizen without civics is the best gift of his political leaders. And this gift is the cliched gift that keeps on giving.
Back to my proposal: once you graduate, you remain in your school for a year of courses ranging from Civics 101 to Civics 500. It should be a national curriculum, developed by stakeholders and experts in higher education pedagogy at home and abroad.
We have high-profile people in demand on the international stage. They can organize the best pedagogical talents at home and abroad in scoping, workshops, seminars, and methods cafes that would result in a visionary national curriculum in civics for graduates of our higher institutions enrolled in a compulsory national year of civic education.
This, of course, is only a partial solution. A fuller solution lies in making civics compulsory through the six years of primary education, the six years of secondary education, and at least the first two years of tertiary education.
There should be a graduated compulsory civics curriculum starting from Primary One through to SS 3. Our problem starts at the foundation in Primary One. To do this, you of course have to train those who are going to teach civics at the primary and the secondary level. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to our primary and secondary school teachers but decades of rot and decay have translated to a situation in which many of them can hardly spell their own names let alone teach civics in a situation of national emergency.
For a great percentage of them, the heart is not even there. Unlike my father’s generation and the succeeding generation who taught me in primary and secondary school and regarded teaching as a spiritual calling (not being teachers was inconceivable for Baba and Mama Adesanmi; not being teachers was inconceivable for Monsieur Tunde Iluromi, Mr. Dele Dada, Mr Joe Funsho Medaiyedu, Mr Chuma Ubani (no relation of the late civil rights activist) and the Titcombe College crew who made me who I am today), teaching in our public primary and secondary schools is now what you grudgingly accept to do because of lack of other options and opportunities.
Nowadays, I meet primary and secondary school teachers who lament their fate and the indignity of being reduced to teachers. A whole me fa! Teaching in a primary school. Prof, I’m just managing it ni o. You cannot expect such an under-motivated crew to teach civics. Besides, they too are products of the same tragic system of education which has de-emphasized quality civic education for decades, paying only lip service to it in policy documents that are not read by anyone.
Furthermore, when you go nine, ten months without paying them, followed by promises to pay maybe two months out of ten, followed by threats to pay only 50% of the two months you agreed to pay, followed by verification exercises before you can pay the said 50%, followed by an announcement that the said 50% of two months can now no longer be paid because Kemi Adeosun has disqualified you from accessing bailout, you do not turn to such teachers and tell them to go and teach civics. A possible solution is to recruit teachers among the graduates of the first five years of the compulsory national year of civic education that I am proposing. This needs to go hand in hand with an overall determination never to owe teachers salaries otherwise the new crop of civics teachers will become demoralized. The Federal Ministry of Education, NUC, and a revamped National Orientation Agency need to sit down urgently and assess the price that Nigeria is paying by waging war on civics.
All our political parties have beautiful manifestos. Even though it was authored by the military and is therefore still technically a fraudulent document to the extent that she starts with a lie, “we, the people”, our Constitution has beautiful provisions on how to enhance a country where the gifts, talents, genius, creativity, potential and industry of every citizen can flourish. However, none of these matters if the said citizen is wallowing in civic illiteracy.
The 21st century world of apps and the knowledge economy, and the future that is emerging from it, belong to nations who understand that civics is the foundation of what we call human capital and potential. Nigeria, it should really not surprise you why you cannot claim your portion and possess your possession in this postmodern world, to use a language you understand perfectly.