The Nigerian law mandates every fresh Nigerian university or polytechnic graduate to serve the country through the National Youth Service Corps or NYSC for one year. The service includes teaching in public or private schools.
In May 1973, three years after the end of a bloody civil war that killed over two million people, the government established NYSC to promote national unity. Young graduates are deployed to states other than their states of origin and those they were schooled in.
After Hannah Ikebuasi graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 2021, NYSC deployed her to Cross River State on February 26, 2022.
There, her place of primary assignment was Rabu International Nursery and Primary School in Okwabang community in Boki Local Government, where she was to resume teaching.
But when she resumed at the community, about a ten-hour drive from Calabar, the state capital, she noticed the community's corps member's lodge had a leaky roof and bad toilets. Each of the lodge’s two flats has five rooms (10 rooms in total) and two big sitting rooms. The lodge accommodates nine corps members.
However, unlike other corps members, she did not wait for the community, the school, or the government to repair them. She took up the project.
Prime Progress' EKPALI SAINT caught up with the 29-year-old, who explained the approach she took to get funding to start the project and the expected impact. This conversation has been edited for clarity.
PRIME PROGRESS: Tell us about your background and education.
Ikebuasi: I grew up in a family of nine – my parents and seven siblings. It was a big challenge going to school. This was because when I got admission to study electrical engineering, my parents retired as catechists in the Anglican Church. I am the sixth child of my parents, and my siblings were not buoyant enough to cater for my schooling. So, most times, I hustled to help myself by doing electrical work in hostels.
PRIME PROGRESS: Tell us the story behind the project you are executing.
Ikebuasi: During our orientation camp, we were told (corps members can carry out] group community development services (CDS) or personal projects. The entire community project [idea] is for the good of the community one serves.
So when I was deployed to my PPA [place of primary assignment], I visited some corper's lodges in the area. What drew my attention the most was the community's general corper's lodge which also serves as the community secondary school principal's lodge. It was so dilapidated [that] I felt for the corps members and the principal staying there, and it was during the rainy season.
Fortunately, I met with the community liaison officer (CLO) on the seat. I explained my observation and plans for the lodge, and he welcomed the idea and told me some necessary steps to take.
PRIME PROGRESS: What were these steps?
Ikebuasi: After discussing with the CLO, I met with our local government inspector. I explained the project, and she gave me the go-ahead. I wrote to the state's CDS body seeking an approval letter for the project. I met with the community during one of their meetings consisting of the community chairman, the youths, the women, and the council of chiefs. I spoke with them, explaining my mission, the importance, and the benefits to the community and the NYSC body.
They welcomed the idea and gave me the go-ahead order. They told me the personalities, groups and organizations I needed to visit to seek financial support. I did exactly the way they told me, which fetched a reasonable amount of finance for the project.
PRIME PROGRESS: Tell us when it started, where it currently stands, the impacts you are already seeing, and when project completion is expected.
Ikebuasi: This project started in May 2022. It is divided into four sections – the roofing section, the flooring of the toilet and bathroom section, the ceiling section, and the painting of the whole lodge section. I have been able to do three sections of the project, which are: roofing, flooring, and painting. I planned to complete it in December 2022, but due to poor responses, I shifted it to January 2023.
The project is funded through the support of community members. The donation comes from groups, age grades, important personalities, churches and organizations within the community.
The project's sustainability is sure [because] there are no more problems like leakages, and its present beauty will help convince more corps members to stay in the community for more community developments. The former state of the lodge was so discouraging.
PRIME PROGRESS: What other challenges are currently facing the project, and what are your measures to address them?
Ikebuasi: It's the high cost of materials. Also, being a female corps member, one begins to experience some advances from the opposite gender - I politely turn them down. For the increasing cost of things, I don't want it to bother me. I am still very much optimistic that before my passing out parade in February 2023, I will try and get enough funds to complete the project.