NYSC: The Facts, The Myths, The Toilets
Here is a guide to surviving and thriving in NYSC Camp.
I was posted to the NYSC camp in Umudi, Imo State in 2012 (a place as obscure as it sounds) and just last week, I helped my sister register for camp in Abuja. Thinking back on my experience it became clear immediately that there is a right and a wrong way to do camp. Whether you intend to serve the full three weeks like I did or you intend to leave camp on (ahem) medical grounds, everyone needs to know the do’s and don’ts of NYSC Camp. Here are the things I wish I knew before going to camp.
Step 1: Registration
We all must show up and register. If not, you get the joy of doing it all over again next year. This is hands down the most frustrating part of camp; it can take you anywhere from 12 hours to 3 days to complete. By all means, take this advice to heart.
Do Dress Appropriately
I cannot stress this enough. You will walk the equivalent of a mile before your registration is finished. Do not expect the person who takes your documents and the person who gives you your folder to be in the same place. Oh no. They will be on opposite ends of the camp. Carry as little with you as possible; your folder, your phone and some money is all you need.
Do ask questions
The only way to know what you need to do is to ask. Ask everyone: fellow corpers, officers, soldiers, the lady washing plates under the mango tree, do not be shy. Many a time, we found ourselves being the first to see a particular officer while others waited in the wrong line for hours.
Do make friends
Friendship is the currency du jour. The right friend can get you to the front of the line, take you to the best accommodation or just simply make the duration manageable. Everyone is in the same position as you so this is the easiest thing to do. Try an icebreaker like “Sorry, do you know where we find our state code?” Do not restrict it to corpers though. Some of your best friends in camp will be soldiers and officials.
Step 2: Camp
So you made it through registration in one piece. You have your bunk bed, your mattress, your uniform and your ID card. Now what? Now comes the best part. Honestly. If you play it right, camp may just be the most fun you have had in a long time.
Do have the right attitude
Attitude is everything. Approach camp like you are trying to get the most you can from it. Focus on friendship, activities and experiences. If you think of it as all in good fun, it will be. I still remember things like celebrating my birthday in Mammy Market, finding successful ways to dodge the soldiers, actually completing the Man O’ War challenge etc. These will never happen again, so appreciate them.
Don’t be rude
This is the quickest way to have a terrible time. Remember that these guys are posted here same as you. They may have nicer accommodation but it is still three weeks away from friends and family. The better you treat them, the better they treat you. But if you mouth off, inquire as to whether they know who your father is or refer to their lowly salary/status/education etc. (sadly I witnessed all of this happen), they will make it their business to break you. Do not be the guy that is made to jog around camp every day or the girl that is made to frog-jump in front of the entire platoon.
Do get involved
Apart from marching and drills, camp offers a lot to occupy your time. Those who enjoyed camp the most where the ones who were involved in something. I did the color guard, volleyball, dance competition, coached the beauty pageant and came first in the camp cook-off. Granted, they called me Over Eager, but my camp experience was great. There are over a dozen other activities and skill acquisition classes in camp. Find your level of involvement and try to do something.
Step 3: Posting
Your posting comes at the end of camp and can either be a source of contentment or misery. It is common knowledge that many people get rejected from their primary postings and have to spend most of the year looking for organizations that will take them in. Try to do whatever you can to prevent this.
Do decide what you want
What is the ideal posting for you? Would you like somewhere that you get to work, earn money and learn something? Do you already have something going and you need a place that will be the least hassle? Is the thought of teaching terrifying or thrilling to you? Once you understand your needs it will be easier to meet them.
Don’t leave it to chance
The biggest mistake you can make is to do nothing. The people who decide your posting are right in camp with you: your platoon officers. With three hundred odd corpers each, they have nothing to go on except your college degree and your passport photo. You have three weeks to know them, gist with them and tell them your wishes. It might take effort, strategic gifts of oranges and boiled groundnuts and running a few errands but in the end they will know you. It is in their best interest too; they will have one less corper to worry about.
Do take the initiative
I had a friend in camp that took an exeat, went to an engineering company in town and asked to see their MD. The man was so impressed with the meeting that he offered to give him an NYSC post to his company. That is the kind of attitude you need. If you have a particular company you want to work for, start making those moves early. Call in favors and go for interviews if you can. Again, the officers will most likely support you in this. At the very least, include a CV with your posting letter when you go to your Primary Posting. This will help you stand out in the crowd and may land you that job.
I hope these tips help people get a good experience from camp. The biggest takeaway for me was it taught me to look at the world differently. People I may never have spoken to have become close friends to this day. Enjoy camp while you can because it is truly the only thing fun about your NYSC year.
P.S. – About Those Bathrooms
Sadly, the bathroom situation is as awful as you probably have heard it to be. Not necessarily the facilities but more the inconsiderate nature of your fellow corpers. The best advice I can give you is this.
1) Find the people that clean the bathrooms, a thoroughly thankless job.
2) Give them a little something to clean one that is far away from all the hostels and offices.
3) By a tiny padlock with a set of keys.
4) Voila! You and your friends have a private toilet.
Be ready to deny all and sundry if you get caught though! And Don’t….mention my name.