Employment: the curse of colonialism

” Dear Lord, I hope that my daughter finds a good job,” she prays. It’s been ten years, three months and five days ever since her daughter finished her studies. The same amount of time that she has spent looking for work. Email after email of rejections from companies. She has walked until her canvas shoes are tattered. They are tattered because she can’t afford a new pair. It’s either she buys the shoes and stays at home or walks with them and cater for her fare. She’s tried suicide twice. She wants to end her life……

Isn’t this the story of many African youths? Most of us grew up with our parents telling us to work hard and find great jobs or else we’ll end up driving mkokotenis in town. I remember that picture. It’s worse when you had a father or mother as a teacher. They would work you till you score those As. That was the only inheritance they had to give you to make your life better. Rather their lives and the lives of the entire village better. I never liked that life.  I swear it drove me mad, waking up early in the morning dipping my feet in a bucket of cold water, burning the midnight oil. The one of reading and waking up early or sleeping late. I am a night person who prefers to work till the night ends and wake up late. And then reality hits you when you finish your education and there are no jobs or worse you are not doing what you studied for.

We have been socialized to think that jobs are what we need and this didn’t begin with our parents. It began way in the colonial days when our forefathers were told that the only thing that they were good at is being slaves in the white man’s land. They toiled day and night, lived as squatters in the white man’s farm. Any attempt to start a business was thwarted as it was seen as competition by the white man, sadly. Even the attempts to become farmers was mission impossible. Their crops had to be second class, and only the white man’s stuff was deemed superior. Worse, their system of education, which we now copy, was meant to create laborers for the white man. Presently we are the elite’s props. Working like monkeys and being paid peanuts. The Asians at least had a chance of being second class citizens hence they had their fair chance of beginning businesses. You see the effect now is numerous Asian businesses in the country. Somalis are following suit and refusing the hakuna job narrative. It’s only us, people of black skin, who are still stuck as victims of our own past.

I want to blame the white man for conditioning the minds of our forefathers to think of themselves as slaves. But again, I won’t do that. Its been 55 years of this bondage, of this system of slavery, of this beggarly attitude. I must attest that I am a victim too of this mindset of always desiring that another person do it for me. That another person is responsible for my life. That my rich relative or friend should connect me with the high and mighty. Should help me get to where they want me to be. When it gets to the national level, it’s the government to create jobs, its them to increase our wages, its them to sort out stuff. Its created negative vices too. Our young women, the future mothers are wasting their lives with old grown men, old enough to be their grandfathers, in search of “assistance”. Not that I condemn them, I don’t. It’s life and that’s their way of survival. I maybe would have done the same if it wasn’t exposure and the grace of God who gives me ability to make sound choices. Our young men are wasting as house husbands, as sugar babies, as armed robbers. Women too presently have become gangs leaders sadly. And so forth and so forth….the list of vices is endless..The narrative is the same. There are no jobs. The government should create jobs..and the rich are getting richer, finding more opportunities in this continent that has been labelled as dark or problematic or a desert. Regarded as a poor man’s continent.

But isn’t it time for things to change? Beginning from me because my heart wakes me up every night reminding me that I must do something. Not the government. I am the government. The power is in my hands to change anything that I don’t want. That I don’t like. That I aspire. That I want to inspire. I believe critics of government make the worst leaders. They always tend to do worse than their predecessors because life is funny. Whatever you criticize is a reflection of who you are on the inside. It’s like keen spirit. I applaud those of us who have taken the initiative to change their world. You are like John the baptist to me, leveling the crooked paths straight, showing me where to step on and where not to. How to go about it. An as I wind up my article today, I ask them who are always complaining, them who wait for their rich uncles and aunties to give them a helping hand, them who wait for the government to create jobs, them who are always full of excuses, them who haven’t thought about this, them who look exactly like me. God has placed everything that you need to succeed on the inside of you, What are going to do about it?


Happy labors day.

Yours truly,

Harriet James

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