When on Monday 15th of January the National Youth Service Corps announced plans and schedules for the mobilisation of the 2016 batch B stream who have had to wait till 2017 because of budget irregularities and unavailability of funds, the concerned students heaved a sigh of relief. At last they were going to be serving their fatherland, and, afterwards, be able to settle down into adulthood. One aspect of the plans rolled out conspicuously stood out: it was the call for the compulsory presentation of health certificates by each corps member at their respective campgrounds.

After the series of deaths that trailed the camping of the batch B stream one last year, the onus was on the government to find a lasting way to guarantee the safety of the corps members that will be in their care for a period of 21 days. And in asking each corps member to present their health reports, the government has taken the first step to ensuring the safety of the corps members.

In recent times, the deaths of youth members have been blamed on the negligence of camp authorities in taking good care of the deceased members when they called in sick. To the soldiers, who often hold the erroneous belief that youth are lazy, they often take their complaints as excuses and escapist means from the morning drills.

As reactions begin to trail the initiative, it appears the majority of prospective corps members do not see the essence of the presentation of a health report at various camps (a look at the comment section on the NYSC announcement on Facebook might be all you need) and that is rather unfortunate. After the death of Miss Ifedolapo Oladepo and Elechi Chinyerum at the NYSC camps in Kano and Bayelsa respectively, the unanimous resolution of the populace was that the government had to take steps to forestall that. Health reports that provide authorities at each camp means of having a foreknowledge of the state of health of each corps member in their care is a valid way to start. The knowledge of the health status of the corp members aides the decision of the coordinators as regards the extremes each of the corps members can go. They know who to excuse from drills, who needs special attention, who needs not be exposed to what and so on. But again, the same set of youths who condemned the deaths of their colleagues see no reason why the government should implement this or even make it compulsory. But they don’t want such unfortunate incidents to reoccur.

Reports that are rather saddening and show the level of illiteracy even amidst the educate lots have it that prospective corps members in some states of the federation have been going to hospitals, paying a certain amount of money and in 30 minutes or so, their health certificates are ready. These are the same set of people that might have one allergy or the other, unknown to them, unless with the help of a doctor, and will go to camps, develop strange reactions due to change in environment, which if not properly addressed might lead to death. But the government will be blamed for negligence.

The government, through this initiative, is tasking the populace to be in thorough knowledge of their health status. The itching, those strange breathings, those pains around your hearts, those swelling that disappear after days and the likes, the government is tasking you to know the reason behind it and to know what and what you should avoid. As much as it could be an escapist way by the government, it is a way of making the corps members take responsibilities for their health. If the process is duly followed, not a few corps members, I am convinced, will discover a new information about their health status.

Especially in a country where a number of silently ailing individuals are scared away from conducting tests due to the exorbitant fees the patients are made to pay, and patients, in turn, take their health issues with a pinch of salt, the NYSC initiative should be used as way to get hold of their health status which will not only help them in making informed judgments on what to do and not to, but also help the authorities at various camps know the corps members’ health status.

However, if it is true that a number of people have been scared from knowing their health status due to exorbitant fees required, the government, through this initiative, should establish a project to subsidise the cost and encourage the youths to, at least if this once, have a knowledge of their health status.

Apart from the fact that the tests that are supposed to precede the report will give both the corps member and the NYSC authorities informed knowledge about future actions, in cases of future mishap, the health reports give us an idea of what went wrong. When you tell your instructor of a strange reaction and he seems not to be understanding, your health report is a valid document to back up your claims. If an unfortunate incident happens thereafter, we know who to hold responsible.

The danger of getting a health report without any test is it defeats the purpose of the initiative. Rather than reduce the number of casualties, it might increase as silently killing diseases are further covered. As easy as it could be for some to get a report that they are in perfect health even when not sure, it is just that easy to get a report that indicates a particular illness that would excuse the particular corps member from drills.

The initiative is nothing but an avenue for corps member to take responsibility for their health, and in a saner society, everyone knows the status of their health. Corps members will be doing themselves a lot good if they sincerely go through the proper process of tests before getting the health reports.

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