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Monday, 23 July 2012

County Council worker with a rare resilience

By Kelvin Njuguna

She wakes up to do the same thing she has been doing for the last 27 years. She has mastered the schedule well until the body is well accustomed to it. From to clean the market, from 10am to 1.30pm tidy the environment behind the shops and go for a 30-minute lunch break. Burn the garbage from and finally empty large bins at 4pm. This has been the life of Jane Wambui since 1985 when she joined Laikipia County Council as a permanent employee serving as a cleaner.

Wambui 49 was first posted to work in Sipili shopping centre in Laikipia west but has had numerous transfers only to be redeployed to Sipili. She attributes this to inability of many council employees to cope with the demanding work environment in the area. Typically one person cannot manage to clean the 200 acres shopping centre. She remembers being assigned her work with six others only for them to be transferred later and left alone to tend the area. However, she acknowledges the work done by different organizations to ensure clean environment in the shopping centre.

Jane Wambui, Council worker collecting litter.
  (PHOTO:Dennis Kipkirui|LRV)

Work has not come in a silver platter for Wambui. The mother of six children has been struggling to fend for her family. She admits that it is family needs that drove her to work for the council. She however complains of the past regime which allowed the council to oppress them. Wambui praises the current administration for ensuring that they their payments arrive on time and not letting arrears to accrue. As expected she only get peanuts compared to work demand, thanks to her low cadre in the organization.

Her working condition has been her great concern. The environment poses a lot of risks to her life and the council has been turning on a deaf ear to her pleas. Most of her colleagues have succumbed to poor health occasioned by the fateful working environment. Despite the good work done by these employees by ensuring a clean environment for human habitation, they usually cater for their treatment. The council can only afford to send them to cheap dispensaries without adequate facilities which can help them get better medical attention because of the risks involved with their duties.

She blames weak environmental policies for escalating poor waste management. She notes that policy executors are also relaxed in ensuring that people adhere to prescribed mode of waste disposal. Sipili market for example, dumps all manner of wastes in one bin ranging from needles to papers and it is expected that the collector ensures her safety.  Some people even go ahead and relieve themselves on bins located in the toilets. She alleges that most business premises in the area lack bins which make customers drop litter all over the place. This strains her a lot as she has to spend much time and energy collecting them. On a typical day she ends up with a headache and stomach upset. The worst usually happens when she has to dispose off a dead dog within the vicinity or along the road that leads to the centre. She will have to locate a place and dig a hole to bury it.

Wambui nostalgically recalls the day they were employed and were provided with full working kit. This was made up of gloves, mask, gumboots and uniform together with six bars of soap every month. This made her like her working environment. Today the supply is not stable. This has further compromised their health. The only item she has today issued by the council is a 10-year old rake and a five litre container shaped like a spade used for shoveling garbage. Surprisingly, if she was to get a transfer, the council expects her to move with these meager tools to the new station. But to her a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.  She is not discouraged by lack of facilities to do her chores. She reports to her work place hopping that someday someone will intervene and change the situation for the better.

The middle aged woman scorns at the way the council is ran. She is particularly disturbed by the circus involved in the issuance of uniform. She complains that her seniors ask her to send cloth measurements and preferred color only for tenders awarded to take ages to deliver the uniform. They only arrive at a time when they are too small to fit the owner. This deals the owner double blow because they don’t use the clothes and have their wages deducted since the council stopped buying them uniform. The Laikipia County Council employee can only be differentiated from the civilians by an aging job card, placed precariously at the left side of her chest.

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