This week I would like us to recognise some very special and dedicated ordinary people in our society who relentlessly and judiciously carryout extraordinary work for our country with very little recognition by the establishment.
These are the people who toil long hours under very difficult conditions for the love of their profession and nothing else as their pay packages are miserly. I want to recognise our teachers, our law enforcement personnel and our nurses.
We ought to wake up, change our mindsets, start recognising and rewarding them appropriately before they rebel and there are signs that they are beginning to feel the pinch and agitated. I believe they need to be rewarded handsomely for what they do regardless of their level of academic qualifications.
Academic qualifications now seem to have overtaken common sense. I believe people should be rewarded or remunerated not only for the academic qualification they possess but also more importantly for the performance and delivery of expected results. Noting however, that minimum educational requirements for any given job, is mandatory.
Allow me to digress a little, to clarify my point above. Given a particular job, a teacher for example and four candidates, one with a diploma, another with a degree, the other a masters’ degree and the forth a PHD graduate. Is there any guarantee that the one with the highest qualification will produce better results than the one with the lowest in the same job? If these four people are doing the same job, they should be paid the same basic salary.
However, there should be a portion of their salary that is performance based, performance being measured by the results as determined based on set criteria. If the qualification helps the individual to get better results that individual will automatically get better remuneration based on the results produced not the qualification. I am sure a lot of you will understand why I am saying this.
People especially government employees are acquiring more and more qualifications for the sole purpose of getting a raise in their salary and not necessarily to increase productivity. This is a serious weakness in our remuneration system.
The above is my own personal views and a lot of people may agree or differ with me but I believe strongly that we have shifted disproportionately towards the need for higher and more qualifications at the expense of increased productivity which productivity is loosely measured by quantity and quality of results achieved given specified means of production. We have to move away from a situation where academic qualifications are more important than experience and superior job execution, otherwise we will continue to experience increasing decline in productivity levels.
I am proud of our teachers because I am a proud product of all my teachers especially those from primary and secondary school. I do not believe most of my teachers were degreed but they were exceptionally talented, both in the class room and outside in the extra curricula activities.
I will not talk about tertiary education because it is different. At university we have lecturers who are facilitators and students are required to be self taught. The lecturers provide guidelines and resources for the student and the student must be mature enough to know why they are at university. Hence primary and secondary teachers are very critical in preparing our children for higher learning and to a large extent the world of work.
I know the conditions under which our teachers work and the remuneration they attract. When I was given an option to become a teacher I said, ‘not me’. Teachers accept children from varied backgrounds in our societies, some with unknown learning disabilities, some disadvantaged children with all sorts of societal challenges, some with average and others with superior learning ability. They have to teach all these kids to learn how to learn together.
To make it even more difficult for our teachers there are no preschools where kids are prepared for public schooling. There is no screening to help identify different learning abilities. There are no special needs teachers to talk about in our public schools. Hence the teacher has to be a jack of all trades and get these kids to learn and graduate from primary to secondary and from secondary to university or the world of work. I salute all the teachers out there and understand why they now demand overtime, which was never the case before.
Recently I went to a certain school where I was again reminded of the deplorable conditions under which our teachers operate, where a special needs teacher, uses a corner of the school hall as her classroom, when other activities are taking place in the same hall at the same time.
She has no where to store her teaching aids and she was appealing for help for the sake of these children. Her story was heart wrecking; the hours she spends at school for the various activities she has to carryout for these kids are ridiculously long.
Many times she hardly has enough time for her own family and what recognition does she get for all this from us and the government? Most of us know how much these people earn; pittance. Can she afford a helper at home to help her with her home chores while doing this thankless national duty for our kids? The answer is no, so her family suffers as a result of her dedication to duty; a duty that is squarely ours as a nation as taxpayers and when our taxes are used to fund corruption.
OUR LAW ENFORCEMENT PEOPLE
The police force and army are charged with our personal and national safety and security. These people work long hours and are required to be available 24/7 should the need arise. My concern is how well do we look after these people? How much do we care about their welfare? I want to share two incidents which will always haunt me. I know many of our men and women in uniform experience the same dilemma.
A gentleman in the army approached me and told me he wanted to leave the country. He wanted to go overseas to Canada or to America to look for a job; ‘any job for that matter’ he said. He believed there, he will find a job that will pay him enough to look after himself and his family.
He needed financial help to migrate. I wanted to know why this young gentleman charged with looking after our security wanted to leave and leave for an undefined, unsecured job overseas. He told me that his father passed away in a tragic accident. His mother is not working and he has six siblings still at school. He is not married yet but he has a child he is maintaining. He would like to marry but he cannot afford it. He has to look after himself, his mother and his siblings including his girl friend and child.
I said to him, ‘but you are working and have been working for some time now and some of your age mates are not working and you should be thankful that you are at least working and serving your country’. He said, ‘uncle, I am earning only P2000 per month and in fact those colleagues of mine not working are better off than me because they earn more than me doing only odd jobs there and there, may be I should quit and join them if I cannot afford to go overseas’. This was few years ago, this chap actual quit his job, failed to go overseas, is still unemployed and unmarried.
My house was broken into recently, three special constables where the first at the house and some other regular policemen came later for finger prints. The special constables traced the tracks and spent half a day in the bush searching frantically and tirelessly.
The culprit was later apprehended and stolen goods recovered through their work. One of the constables, a young lady with two kids said to me she was looking for accommodation and perhaps I knew someone who has a servant quarters to rent.
She said she could afford only up to P800 per month. I was curious and asked how much she earned and how long she has been employed as a special constable. She has been working for years and earning less than P2000 per month.
She does not see any prospects for her advancement, any time soon. Now with two kids, having to pay for her accommodation, food for her and her two children and travelling to and from work. Maybe she also has a mother and father who she also has to help look after as per our traditional way of life. How do we expect this young lady to make a living?
If you have been to any of our public hospitals and see these people at work 24/7 looking after patients suffering from all sorts of ailments, some with no prospects for survival, but the dedication to serve by these nurses remaining solidly intact. The conditions in some of these hospitals are deplorable; where some of the patients have no beds, no blankets and hygiene in many cases severely compromised. My heart goes for these people. There are always smiling and willing to go the extra mile to assist the patients and their relatives to come to terms with the reality and the situation they find themselves in.
My concern is despite the nature of their job which put them at risk of all sorts of infections, despite their dedication to serve despite these deplorable conditions and despite the fact that we can afford to pay them more we continue to pay them starving wages.
WHY I PICKED ON THESE PEOPLE?
I have singled out the three categories of employees because these are the people we cannot do without and they do their jobs with so much dedication for such low wages. It breaks my heart knowing the cost of living in this country and our extended family set up to see our government paying such low salaries to the people who are literally carrying such a heavy load this republic, while we pay more to people we have to bribe before they provide service we pay them to provide, people who spend their eight hours at work reading newspapers, on the phone chatting to their friends, doing their own businesses and other notorieties.
What can we do without our teachers, without our nurses and without law enforcement people? Can we develop as a country without education? Can we survive without health care? Without law enforcement would we still want to stay in this country and would we attract any foreign investment as a country?
The question in my mind and the frustration in me is how do we remunerate these people adequately? As a nation do we think we are dong justice to these people? The majority of our teachers, police men, soldiers and nurses earn between P2000 and P5000 per month. We do have some of our people paid as low as P900 per month, while we have others paid over P45000 per month. This to me is diabolical. We need to change and reduce the gap. We all live in the same country where the cost of living is the same for every one.
While there must be different in pay for different categories of work, the difference must be justifiably earned and reasonable. We need a pay structure that enables a more equitable remuneration distribution system that recognises not only academic qualifications, but also level of productivity and the conditions of work.
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org