Reactions As NYSC Delists Pregnant Women, Nursing Mothers, Postgraduate Students | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Reactions As NYSC Delists Pregnant Women, Nursing Mothers, Postgraduate Students

Posted: Aug 5, 2015 at 12:33 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Oyeniran Apata  –    Lagos 


Josephine, (Not real name) was enlisted for the national service and deployed to Lagos State Secretariat of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) for the 2011 Batch B service year.

One week into the orientation and in the middle of the night after a drill earlier in the day, Josephine started feeling uneasiness and rumbling in her tummy and subsequently started bleeding. Prompt attention by camp doctors and officials saved her life as she was rushed to the General Hospital where she was confirmed to have lost two months pregnancy.

Official record of the 2013 Batch B of the NYSC in Lagos State showed that of the 2,163 corps members deployed to the state for the national service, comprise of 224 females that fell in this categories.

Officials disclosed that apart from the 12 physically challenged male and female graduates for the batch, there were also 156 nursing mothers and 68 pregnant women serving in the state for the compulsory one-year national service.

Within the same period, of the 2,226 corps member deployed to Oyo State, no fewer than 35 pregnant and nursing mothers were sworn-in for the orientation programme.

However, shortly after the ceremony signalling the commencement of three weeks orientation exercise at the Iseyin camp ground, one of the pregnant corps members, gripped by the excruciating pang of labour was rushed to the General Hospital where she was delivered of a baby boy.

At such orientation arena, it is not uncommon to find corps members with advanced pregnancy strolling in and out to secure exemption from the camping exercises.

The arrangement by the NYSC, until the recent pronouncement by the Director-General, Johnson Olawumi, made provision for the exemption of nursing mothers and pregnant women in the orientation camp drills. Corps members in this category are not allowed to stay fully in camp for the three weeks as they are immediately decamped after formal registration.

Thus, the announcement, barring pregnant women, nursing mothers, and postgraduate students from enlisting in the national service across the country, may have put paid to dangers mothers and unborn children are exposed to during participation in the orientation camping period and national service proper.

The DG, Brigadier-General Olawumi, had in a statement argued that prospective corps members must go through the four stages of national service to qualify to receive a certificate of national service.

He faulted a situation whereby prospective corps members, especially pregnant women and nursing mothers, would be absent from the stages of the national service, only to resurface for posting to their various places of primary assignments.

Reacting to the development that once became a national issue not too long ago, President, National Association of Women in Academics (NAWAC), Professor (Mrs) Nkechi Atasia described the decision by the NYSC as a good development that would reduce incidences of maternal and child death.

The professor of Chemistry at the Bells University of Science and Technology, Otta, Ogun State said that the NYSC orientation camps were not designed as antenatal and a postnatal centre for mother and child care.

“If they suddenly go into labour at the camp, the camp does not have facilities to effectively take care of such issues.

“God forbid, if the unfortunate happens, it is the authority of the scheme that would be blamed and this would portend a bad image for the NYSC and Nigeria as a whole.

“The national service is a not a period for child delivery. In my opinion, I think it is better for corps members in the state to stay away from the exercise until the baby is delivered.  After all, child delivery or pregnancy is not a crime,” she added.

Speaking further, Professor Atasie advocated that the new measure would in the long run help reduce infant and mother mortality rate, contending that the clinics in the orientation camps were mere consulting centres that can only take care of minor bruises and sprains arising from the rigours of the physical exercises during the three week period.

“Intending Corps members are adults who should be able to tell the truth about the true state of their bodies before enlisting for participation in the national service.

“As adults, they should be able to come out clean and clear instead of concealing pregnancy In order to take part in the exercise,” she said.

She, however, warned against on the spot pregnancy test for intending corps members, contending that apart from debasing womanhood, it is also morally wrong to do that publicly.

Speaking in the same vein, a trustee of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNNAB), Mrs, Tina Eyiowuawi, also commended the step and admonished intending female corps members to know their pregnancy status before enlisting in the national service.

She described the participation of pregnant corps members in the scheme as wasteful because they would miss all the fun of socialisation and orientation exercise as a cardinal programme of the scheme.

Speaking on the new regulations as it concerned postgraduate students participation in the scheme, an Ogun State based accountant, Mr. Muyideen Subair, lauded the NYSC for the directive, contending that corps members in this category were never part of the national service.

He added, “They only apply for NYSC and return to school, and only come back for their certificates. Pregnant women, I support it being scrapped for them. It’s extremely risky for pregnant women to get involved in NYSC activities. Honestly, it is for their sake and good.”

Giving credence to the order stopping pregnant and nursing mothers from taking part in the service year, a skill acquisition trainer in Lagos State and Chief Executive of Her Excellency, Mrs. Nike Akinyemi, described the decision as commendable.

She argued that many corps members that fall into these categories do not actually take active part in all the four cardinal programmes of the service year.

With the new development bordering on who and who are eligible for participation, authority of the 42 year-old scheme may have to rewrite some aspects of the NYSC byelaws; especially  section 7 (a and b) that stated that: (A) A married or an unmarried pregnant member shall be entitled to 12 weeks maternity leave. During this period of leave, she will be paid a full monthly allowance. (B) She shall not however be entitled to the annual leave of 21days (terminal leave).

However, for the singles, the scheme still gives firm support for marriages during the service year in any place of choice with a proviso to file an application for the purpose at least 4 weeks before the date of the proposed marriage.