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By Kekeletso Nakeli


It’s time for people to come first

Do children still aspire to teach, nurse and serve the communities? Could the rotten apples have already spoiled the plantation?

I remember a time when most people wanted to be civil servants. Maybe they didn’t have options or just maybe those who did the work did it with such passion that the work seemed to have a sense of dignity.

One would proudly say: “My mom is a teacher.” I remember a time when you wanted to be a teacher, nurse or police officer. But there was a time when being a public servant required one to possess a quality that today is lacking.

Allegations of nurses who exchange insults with patients, government employees who take extended tea breaks, teachers who impregnate their pupils and police officers who victimise the same communities that they are meant to protect and serve. Should we not look for pride in the work that people do?

To go anywhere and the person who is tasked with helping you is on a mission to test the longevity of their chewing gum or the security guard has upgraded their own employment status and has now become the chief admin clerk. We all begin to wish we could apply for marriage and driving licences via online, just to avoid the human interaction.

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Some professions, however, desperately need passionate people and not debt payers. We cannot pay people to be passionate. A mountain of allegations of bad service delivery is proof to this effect. And as employees are held hostage in their jobs, we came to celebrate Worker’s Day, when civil servants dictated to us far beyond their reach and jurisdiction – we are honestly at their mercy.

But do children still aspire to teach, nurse and serve the communities? Could the rotten apples have already spoiled the plantation? Are we too far gone? In order to get good service, we shouldn’t force people to provide it.

We also shouldn’t make threats and snide remarks. To burn tyres and buildings is really unnecessary and fruitless. By choice or not, we are influenced by our experiences with public servants and may develop certain attitudes based on those experiences.

However, as a society we need to ask, answer and remedy the main question: are we still cultivating a nation of passionate professionals?

When we realise that a productive public service can either make or break our morale towards our governments, we will begin to expect decent and proper service from those who are in those positions. Batho Pele (people first), should not just be a catch phrase.

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