Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The depths of unemployment

The National Youth Service Scheme did not enjoy much popularity when it was introduced in the 70s. The young university graduates then were impatient to get to work, considering that they were intensely wooed by both corporate and government organizations.

Most of them saw the mandatory service year as a waste of career time, and impatiently blazed through it. Some went as far as devising ingenious means to avoid it and jump into the jobs that were beckoning.

Today, the reverse is the case. The jobs are no longer available, and the graduates gladly embrace the scheme. They do so, not because of any sense of patriotism, but because those 12months provide a relief from idleness and boredom. They do so because the scheme provides the first (and for some, only) time they will receive paychecks at the end of every month.

And because the scheme has adorned such an attractive toga, thousands of Nigerian university graduates go to absurd lengths to secure a berth in the service year. Those of them older than the age cap of 30 doctor their birth documents; pregnant ladies take ridiculous, and dangerous, steps to conceal it; and some even forge call-up letters when the NYSC has not invited them.

However, the icing on the cake is the revelation that some graduates, who have undergone the one-year scheme, connive with dubious NYSC officials to get re invited for another service year. Indeed, it stretches the bounds of credulity to receive reports of people who have served thrice. What kind of graduate would sink so low?

Agreed, the unemployment situation has approached crisis dimensions, but people still get jobs. Are these graduates sure that they earned their certificates? Does taking the coward's option solve the problem? While these questions boggle the mind, it is also instructive to remind ourselves that the country's unemployment rate has reached alarming statistics. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youth enter the labour market annually; less than 20% of them get jobs.

The country's abysmal business environment smoother the entrepreneurial spirit among this lot. Left with little or no choice, some of these youth are lured into a life of crime. Millions of university graduates are currently engaged in cyber fraud, both within and outside the country.

The situation has approached dire proportions in that most of these youth labor under the disillusionment that cyber fraud is no crime. A vast majority of Nigerian youth is therefore disinterested in Nation Building; and this is the most dangerous calamity that can befall a country. Our present crop of leaders should therefore, as a matter of utmost urgency, tackle the rising unemployment rate.

Lofty ideas of building an enviable economy by 2020 can never be achieved if the youth are left to continue like this. Nigeria's outrageous unemployment rate has placed the nation at the edge of an abyss. Until we remove ourselves from that precarious precipice, we will not be able to make any progress.

The time to act is now; before the bloated NYSC scheme bursts at its seams.

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