Home SOCIETY To Walk The Talk in The New Gambia

To Walk The Talk in The New Gambia

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As an oestrogen based life form, unlike my testosterone counterparts, I am expected to suck up most quibbles and move on. Not fight back.  As a grown up woman, this is the logical step towards peace of my species. But I don’t like being told what to do, what to think and particularly, how to act in any given context or form. Passive acceptance of fate minus pride is amazingly unreasonable torture for my soul. Fact of the matter is, I am not a stoic. Stoics are long-suffering people who unquestioningly accept their destinies. So I give my best fight. And I move on.

When I look around, there is nothing to gain from an unquestioning mind or anunchallenging spirit. It is dull. Very dull. Ever wondered why God will judge us in the end? Well, it’s because we have freewill. The freedom of choice, of volition, of acceptance or just plain rebuttal of every thing that doesn’t make sense to us. Mediocrity is the twin partner of passivity. It is satisfied to rest on its laurels for that’s its entire ballgame. If we get educated, only to be enslaved in weird places, we call institutions and/or companies. Idle around every morning waiting for work to find us. This does things to people.

Recently, I completed a contract with a certain mission. I took a long leave of absence from my permanent job to have a taste of what it feels to use my skills in a capacity other than I have in the past. Work started at 9:00a.m. and closed at 18:30, with two breaks in between. So organized was the work that each day, there was no end to the zeal to accomplish the daily tasks that were given by the supervisor. Time flew fast each day, and so energized was I each morning to go to work, the feeling cannot find words to express its meaning.

For me, the continual training I had on the jobwas motivation enough. But there was more. A common kitchen was equipped with a coffee maker, an espresso machine, a kettle and a microwave to cater to all workers needs. Moreover, there was free coffee, tea, sugar and milk available for everyone, from the head of the institution to the very last person on board the mission. Not to mention biscuits.

Sadly, all good things come to an end. After six weeks of highly acclaimed work with a rousing recommendation, adieus were said upon the desire to hook up on impending missions. It was satisfaction on both end. Ultimately, what I will miss most about the work I just finished, is the clear delineation of tasks, in accordance with the terms of reference, for each work day, and the humanely treatment of all staff. Not to mention the motivation in the form of good pay, incentives and even bonuses at the end of the mission.

Now, our institutions, especially government institutions, have a lot to learn from this mission’s model. According to the international staff who came to work in The Gambia, they have never encountered such a diligent team of workers in their missions as they have in The Gambia. Presumably, Gambians, myself included, have never worked in such a respectful environment and been treated with such dignity in their work lives before. No wonder we all gave our very best.

Not so in our respective institutions where we feel little umbrage to work to our best potential; where even morning beverage have to be bought by a civil servant with fifteen years of work experience on a salary scale of D7000.00 per month or less. If he/she removes her fare to and from work daily, he/she barely has enough left to provide for his/her kids’own breakfast. Meanwhile, the Management Staff with perhaps quadruple salary are provided with all the incentives; beverages, bottled water, soft drinks etc. as entertainment packages. How unfair and demotivating can we be to the junior staff in our respective institutions !

Just saying…

Today, we talk about the knowledge economy, where knowledge is the driving force for all institutions’ accomplishments. For every worker in the knowledge economy, the most vital accomplishment is to understand the aim and objectives of the institution and/or company one works in. Each department or unit of the establishment must be geared towards achieving the aims and objectives delineated. These may be incorporated in the long, medium and short term strategies of the institutions.

We do not lack literary genius of the well-thought initiatives and strategic plans in our respective institutions. Gambia has too many policy documents waiting to be implemented, if I may add. In my little experience of attending meetings, policy reviews, project implementations, I have seen enough to be convinced by their appetence.  What we lack is leadership to see through these works gathering dust in various filing cabinets of the weird places, we call institutions or companies.

The work that finds us pays our wages, and goes right back to the system in the form of payments for our debts because it is too little to cater to our needs. Debts create more debts, for if the wage doesn’t suffice at the end of the month, it can’t suffice on debt. It’s the overdraft that stretches to overdrive.

For the people who are too lazy to acquaint themselves with the overdrive option, the end game is clear. To take a shortcut is the other way round the problem altogether. This alludes to the taking of bribes, cheating on work hours, taking cuts here and there to tailor our needs where the wages don’t fit etc. etc. The system is feudal to say the least.

In the age of knowledge there is no real reason why one employee rather than the other should be chosen for investment and development, except for the inherent traits of his IQ and indeed his emotional intelligence. Oh yes, emotional intelligence is the new trademark. Who wants to work with a disrespectful or arrogant employee anyways ?

In today’s Gambia, people will work for less, preferring stability to pride and self-respect. No one wants to rock the boat. Gainfully employed people whilst glad enough for their employment are insecure. The young crop of intellectuals are seen as a threat more than reasonable competition. The young ones have all the required education, but no training on the job. On the scale of hundred, it is a fifty sum game. In short, Institutions / Companies / Administrations are weird places !

It is my easy guess that you, my reader, make the same assessment.

No wonder many people appreciated the parody about the Generic Mediocrity Agency. For donkey years, the heroine of the story had patiently vied. Not for the undeserved recognition of unworthy technocrats buoyed by the nuances of a pedigree, not even yet the recognition by timeworn civil servants, who spend most of their lives juggling one position of responsibility in the name of experience. But one borne from the desire to perform to her best potential in the promise of a cause worthier than herself.

Many of my readers saw themselves portrayed in the parody, especially young civil servants who are continually denied the chance to represent their institutions. Others on the top echelons received a kick in the gut, for indeed ‘an old woman always feels uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb’. Well, who ever has never sinned before, let him cast the first stone…as Jesus of Nazareth once said. The holier than thou attitude just don’t stick. It’s a farce put up by the privileged few.

The parody will be continued as indeed every story must have an ending. In due time…

Gambian US-based writer, Jamal Drammeh recently wrote, “Do not indulge in slavish pretentious shows to get recognition. If you do so, the favors that you might garner as a result, won’t last for long or give you any real pleasure or sense of fulfillment. In most cases, this slavish attitude would backfire and cause you more harm in the end. Pretension can mimic authenticity, but the power to accomplish deserts it in the end.”

Thank you for these great words Jamal !

We must do away with pretension and strive towards performance in order to succeed as a nation. Performance is best set in the context of the right people, in the right place at the right time, with the right renumeration I may add. Without which, it is the corruption of values, the weakening of governance and the abysmal failure of decent societies. I cannot know more than my boss and be bossed by my boss. But twenty two years of patriotism based on who you know, more than what you know, has resulted in weakening institutional capacity that is unprecedented in the annals of our history..

The Gambian people have fought too hard and given up everything to see to a change of government. Four months on, we still carry hope that things will change, that institutional reforms will exact precise regulations that will enhance rule of law, good governance and boost institutional capacity. We still hope…

Pic from left: KebbaMamburay, SaikouJabai, myself and Inta Lase behind. Colleagues at work.

By Rohey Samba