The contribution of the National Youth Service Corps to the socio-economic development of Nigeria has received attention in recent times. In some quarters, it was stated that the contributions of the National Youth Service Corps in the health sector in the country could not be overemphasized.
This much was corroborated by the impact of NYSC doctors across the country during the indefinite strike action by Resident Doctors. It was on record that NYSC doctors indeed rendered invaluable services in most public hospitals across the country.
According to Professor Femi Johnson, a public health expert at the University of Ibadan, he stated that the NYSC plays a critical support role in the health sector in Nigeria. This much he highlighted has been the norm for decades. He said that "people make the mistake of thinking NYSC doctors are not eminently qualified. That is an error of judgement. These are qualified doctors who are undertaking their mandatory national service year."
"The strike action by resident doctors in the country recently indeed exposed the inadequacies in the health sector, as well as the importance of the NYSC as a scheme in the health sector in Nigeria."
This much was corroborated by a top-ranking member of the Nigerian Medical Association, who pleaded anonymity. He stated that most public hospitals in Nigeria depend heavily on NYSC doctors and nurses, especially in rural areas.
"In most public health centres across the country, the mainstay are corps members, either doctors or nurses. This is not strange because it is what the NYSC entails. It is service for these newly inducted medical doctors."
This fact was corroborated by scores of health experts interviewed. They believed that the NYSC as an institution could be classified as an interventionist agency for its critical role in the country's life.
According to Nnonso Nwangwu, a medical doctor in one of the Federal Medical Centres in the country, the NYSC doctors are an integral part of the health sector in Nigeria. "As a fact, we look forward to the posting of NYSC doctors to our facility to augment our workforce year in year out. This is cognizant of the fact that lots of doctors are leaving Nigeria in droves, and the lifesaver has been NYSC doctors, who are always willing and able to provide critical intervention."
He further added that the government should act as a matter of urgency to extend the service year for doctors and nurses to fill in the void created by the massive brain drain experienced in the health sector in Nigeria.
"We need the government to address the brain drain issue by extending the service year for medical personnel undergoing the NYSC scheme. I dare say that some states in Nigeria depend wholly on NYSC doctors and nurses to man primary healthcare centres, and in some instances general hospitals."
He also expressed fear that some health institutions might collapse without the intervention of the NYSC doctors. "We fear for the collapse of the health sector in some states, and the government must come to terms with this stark reality and do all possible to address some of the issues at the NYSC for its contributions in the health sector cannot be overemphasized."
According to a member of the National Assembly from one of the states in the South West, he emphasized how youth corps members have been bridging an invaluable gap not just in the health sector, as well as the educational and agricultural sectors.
"As a lawmaker, I have consistently advocated for the sustenance of the reforms in the NYSC scheme. Both on the floor of the hallowed chambers and in my other engagements, I have posited that the NYSC remains a vital tool for sustainable growth and development. For example, I know of three local government areas in my state that survive on the inputs of corp members in the educational, health and agricultural sectors."
"I recall some of my colleagues share the same opinion as mine because they also are aware of the invaluable contributions of the NYSC in national development. But guess for political considerations, they have elected to shy from speaking the truth. And this is sad and a disservice to the country."
A member of a civil society organization who pleaded anonymity stated that during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, NYSC doctors were at the forefront of curtailing the further spread of the virus.
"We must be reminded that NYSC doctors were among the frontline health workers that worked round the clock in governments efforts towards addressing the challenge as it were. I wonder why no mention was ever made of this invaluable contribution. Again, this reminds us of the fact that some stakeholders have refused to look beyond their prejudices to admit that the NYSC scheme remains a lifesaver in Nigeria."
" I recall that NYSC doctors and nurses were found in most isolation centres working round the clock. But were they recognize? This is unfortunate, and this trend must be discontinued. We can't continue to live in ignorance by joining the bandwagon calling for the scrapping of the NYSC scheme."
It would be recalled that the NYSC management has in recent times advocated for more allocation of resources to equip corps members during their service year through the establishment of the NYSC Trust Fund to assist corps members in ways too numerous to mention.