Respect other people’s jobs

Kenyan parents have for many years encouraged their children to aim for white-collar jobs, drawing from the opinion which holds that such jobs provide a sure guarantee to riches, prestige and easy living later on in life.

This is the same mindset which has unfortunately relegated blue collar jobs to the lower rungs of our collective psyche, to the extent that holders of odd jobs are seen as the incompetent, lower class citizens who got poor grades in school.

Children are encouraged to study hard so they may become doctors, pilots, engineers, professors and the like. You are unlikely to hear a Kenyan parent advise their children to aim for the so-called menial jobs.

“Son, I want you to work very hard in school so that when you grow up, you will become a respected hawker in our society.”

“My dear daughter, now that you are joining Form One, I want you to take your studies very seriously so that in future you will become a successful hawker at Marikiti Market.” Such lines are highly unlikely.

Clearly, no one respects hustlers in this country, yet there are numerous hustlers who are more trustworthy than some white-collar employees. A cartoon on this subject recently caught my attention. It featured a smartly dressed man working in an office on one side, with a caption linking his success to a good education.

The second side featured a beat-up and shabby gentleman struggling to pull an overloaded handcart, with a caption that warned against messing with education lest such a fate should befall you. The cartoon reminded me of an old song: “Someni vijana, muongeze pia bidii, mwisho wa kusoma mtapata kazi nzuri sana,” goes the chorus.

But is it true that white-collar employees make more money than the so-called hustlers? Well, not necessarily.

The song did not point out that some holders of these “kazi nzuri sana” end up worse off than holders of less glamorous jobs.

In fact, some of these hyped white collar jobs have so much workload and financial miseries that their holders are secretly wishing they were out in the streets roasting maize.

Be informed that the average council askari in some towns probably takes home more money than many holders of the hyped office jobs. A lot has been said about these askaris but I am not about to play moral judge here. My point is that at the end of the month, some askaris receive more money from their beats than the teachers who taught them!

You probably view hand cart pushers as miserable and downtrodden, but on a good day, the average hand cart pusher in Nairobi’s downtown can make sh1000! And given that his income is tax-free, he probably leads a better life than most junior corporate staff – assuming he does not blow up half of his daily pay on keg!

I recently had an interesting conversation with Rambo, a bodaboda chap in my neighborhood. Rambo, who dropped out of school Form Two, ferries passengers and goods within the estate.

From our conversation, I gathered that he lands at least fifteen assignments every day, and the least he charges is fifty shillings per task!

With his income, Rambo can comfortably rub shoulders with a government nurse earning an entry level salary. And for the young women who are seeking financially stable marriage partners, you might discover that your local charcoal seller is perhaps one of the most eligible bachelors in your hood!

Being a pragmatic parent, I am open to any career paths my children may opt for, regardless of the prevailing stereotypes or academic requirements.

Life is not about wearing fancy suits and bragging about your knowledge of Pythagoras and his theories.

If my son Jimmy decides to sell charcoal once he completes school, then I have no problem with his choice for as long as he will be happy.

And if being a makanga will put ugali on his table, I will happily support and respect his hustle.