As another batch of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members settle down for the compulsory national service nationwide, STELLAMARIES AMUWA examines how corps members adapt to new environments during the service year.
The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), established with the mandate to foster and promote National Unity in the country, has, through the policy of posting of Corps Members to serve in cultures different from theirs, made remarkable achievements in its effort to engender cross cultural exchange and understanding among the diverse ethnic nationalities of the country in accordance with its mandate.
During the one year service period, Corps Members are posted to live and work in different communities. They are encouraged to regard such communities as theirs and work in harmony with their host communities through execution of development projects. Such projects, including construction of roads, maternity centres, schools and other innumerable contributions by Corps Members dot the nooks and crannies of the country.
However, most NYSC Members experience a common problem of adapting to their new environments on arrival from the Orientation Camp. This is not unconnected with the normal anxiety of living in a new environment with people whose cultures and traditions are relatively new. Such fears have led to some of them absconding from their places of primary assignment.
In order to facilitate corps members’ adaptation and easy integration into their new environment, the host communities and Corps Members themselves have roles to play to overcome the challenges they encounter in this regard.
As applicable the world over, the host is expected to receive, offer the best hospitality possible and make the guest feel welcome throughout the duration of his or her stay. The onus therefore lies on every host community, Corps Employer and other stakeholders to create a genial environment for Corps Members to feel welcomed and relaxed in their community.
In this regard, host communities including employers must endeavour to warmly receive Corps Members when they arrive from their Camps, as first impression matters. It will go a long way to diminish or totally eliminate their apprehensions and make them feel not only welcome but also appreciated.
Furthermore, it is expected that host communities treat corps members as their own children, be patient with them and help them settle in and adapt to their way of life by assisting them to learn their language, tradition and custom. This will enable them to interact freely and integrate easily.
Meanwhile, Corps Members will feel at home in their host communities when they are sure of their safety. Though there are criminal elements in every society, efforts both in action and words must be made to assure corps members that the community have their back and that they have no cause to worry about their safety.
Unwarranted attacks on Corps Lodges and Corps Members such as robberies, kidnappings, among others in any state of the federation should be condemned by all. Such attacks have no place in sane climes and if it unfortunately happens, the culprits must be quickly apprehended and punished to give Corps Members the confidence that they are safe in such a community.
Similarly, on the part of Corps Members, they should understand that the challenges of integrating into their host communities are surmountable. The best way to gain easy acceptance by your communities is to learn their language and respect their culture. This is the reason the Scheme captured language study and traditional lectures in the Orientation Course programme. Learning the language of their hosts will enable Corps Members to communicate effectively and make it easier to integrate into their new communities. The mode of greeting and other forms of social interaction including business transactions are hinged on proper understanding and effective communication in the language of the host community.
In addition, every community in Nigeria has its approved dress code that is in tandem with their cultural beliefs. Corps Members should be conscious of the fact that indecent dressing is an aberration to every culture in Nigeria. It is therefore incumbent on them to dress in a manner that would portray them as responsible youths and desist from violating rules of proper dressing in their host communities.
Furthermore, as a way of ensuring peaceful co-existence, Corps Members must adhere to the rules and regulations guiding religious practice in their host communities. Though, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a secular state allows freedom of religion for her citizens, there are communities in Nigeria where it is a taboo for women or non indigenes to go out on certain days or time when the locals are performing their traditional religious rites. Strict adherence to traditional tenets and restrictions by Corps Members are critical to overcoming the challenges of integration in host communities.
From the foregoing it is obvious that both the Corps Member and the host community have important roles to play to overcome the challenges Corps Members encounter to gain acceptance in their host communities and places of primary assignment. The host community and Corps employer has the responsibility to warmly receive the Corps Members, protect and give them a sense of belonging, while the Corps Members should reciprocate by respecting the customs and tradition of their hosts. A safe and conducive environment is essential for Corps Members to discharge their statutory obligations and will culminate into a rewarding service year for the Corps Members and the host communities who will benefit from the selfless service of the former.
In the light of this, communities, organisations, individuals, security agencies, Corps Employers and other stakeholders should close ranks to provide the enabling environment for Corps Members to discharge their statutory obligations.
George Asebia Ayah, Jukun by tribe, from Guma local government area of Benue State. Served with federal ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Abuja in 2014, stated that before NYSC, he lived in Kaduna State. He had a wonderful experience with the commercial law division of the ministry which is into trademark registration, patent and design. Almost four years down the line, he finally relocated to the nation’s capital and makes a living from experience acquired.
Though he says Kaduna has conducive weather when compared to Abuja. “I am happy that I served in Abuja a different state and almost different weather from my original base, the fact that I relocated to Abuja is because I served here and I enjoined the city.”
Similary, Dorcas Matthew Malle, an indigene of Niger State while sharing her experience in Cross Riversr State during the 2012/13 service year said the culture and tradition of the people was intriguing. Although, married now, Mallies relishes her days as a Corps Member in the South south state.
“The people were very hospitable and welcoming and I really love their culture and I must confess the people are highly hygienic and its volume of their environment,” she said.
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