Dateline was Friday, July 5. Venue was the Iyana Ipaja Orientation Camp of the Lagos State National Youth Service Corps. Nursing mothers with their babies strapped to their backs joined their colleagues to welcome the Minister of Youth Development, Dr. Inuwa Abdulkadir, who was at the camp on an official visit.
In spite of the bundles of joy they carried, the nursing mothers, who are members of the 2013 Batch B of the NYSC, would not want to be outdone by their colleagues. Those who came to the camp with their housemaids left their babies with them for safekeeping. Promptly, they joined others when it was time to sing the NYSC anthem.
The passion, commitment and courage the nursing mothers displayed during the parade drew the attention of newsmen to some of them. They narrated the joy and the challenges of undergoing the service year as nursing mothers and pregnant women, as the case may be.
A pregnant corps member, Mrs. Ogungbemi Stella, notes that her experience at the camp has been enjoyable.
Her words, “I got married in 2008 and I already had a baby. We didn’t plan to have a baby because I’d planned to come here and enjoy my service year but when I got pregnant, there was nothing I could do,” she says.
So, how has she been coping with her pregnancy and ante-natal care? Ogungbemi says, “The NYSC law does not allow pregnant corps members and nursing mothers to stay in the orientation camp. So, I have to move from my husband’s house in Sango to put up with my parents at Ikotun-Egbe, a place that is closer to the camp. From there, I go for the ante-natal clinic from where I come to the camp. Let me say that I’m missing the fun at the camp – the exercises, the social activities, the drills, the early morning walk-outs and all the fanfare.
“The Federal Government should review the NYSC regulation to allow pregnant corps members and nursing mothers to stay in camp. Orientation camps should be built to accommodate people like us,” Ogungbemi, whose husband works as a human resource manager on Victoria Island, says.
The NYSC Coordinator, Adeyemi, however, explains that since the NYSC regulation forbids these categories of corps members to live at the orientation camps across the country, nothing could be done to help them.