Friday, May 14, 2010

Working Without Pay & Ghost Workers

The elementary and secondary schools had a break after Easter. They were scheduled to resume classes May 3. But for the past couple of weeks most of the kids have still been hanging around outside. I asked what was going on. Oh, they told me, our teachers aren't coming, so we just go and study with our classmates for a little while, then we come out to play. Why aren't the teachers coming? In the government (public) schools, it seems thay have not been paid since the end of last year. Turns out that government health workers haven't been paid, either. Both groups are apparently discussing going out on strike.

Up until now, the teachers have been working every day, despite the missing paychecks. How do the teachers manage to go without salaries for four or five months? They all ofer "extra lessons" before and after school, for which the pupil pays. But that is a pittance. So I don't know how they manage. But now I understand why I have had people come to me asking to borrow money to tide them over until they get paid.

This happens in NGOs and other institutions, as well. Money is scarce, but the work is there and needs to be done. And the patient Zambians carry on in a way I doubt that most of us would. I'm told that with the threat of a strike, some back pay will start to be found. I certainly hope so!

At least Zambia does not seem to have the "ghost worker" problem that Uganda had when I worked there, and according to a report on BBC, still has. These are individuals, usually political appointees, who are put on the payroll but never come to work. They just collect their salaries. There is a move to find and stop such corruption, but it has been going on for more than 20 years.

I thought our budget woes in Arizona were bad, but this problem of work without pay in Zambia gives me a new perspective on how awful some situations can become--and yet how people somehow cope and keep on providing services to children and those who are ill.

I am on my way back to the U.S. for a short trip to be with my daughter and her family to welcome a new grandchild due May 18. They are living in Washington, DC. Cathy has already packed four 50-pound suitcases with books and supplies needed in Zambia, and I will fly back with them on the 26th of May. So you may not see a blog next week, but I'll be back the week after.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, and I thought CPS workers having to take furlough days were bad. There were still many workers who continued working their case loads any way. That pales in comparison to months with out pay...Congrats on the new grandchild :)