A YOUNG hospital cleaner rang me tearfully that she was quitting work in order to pursue business.
With an attitude that leans towards work being a permanent surety, I insisted she rescinds the decision.
In her 10 years of service, her payslip position as a cleaner remained constant while she silently brightened her grade 12 certificate.
At the time she was quitting she had applied and been accepted to pursue nursing at the same hospital.
Unfortunately management refused study or unpaid leave and maintained that sponsoring her was completely out of question.
It seems most supervisors encourage their career progression to the exclusion of junior staff.
Although she was a cleaner by engagement, she swore to me that she spent half her career dispensing medicine as if she had undertaken pharmacology training.
Her bone of contention, even as the business she ventured into blossoms, has been on the animosity of superiors who knew her capabilities.
â€œWhat is wrong with a hospital cleaner with excellent grade 12 results and five yearsâ€™ experience dispensing medicine going for training as a nurse?â€ she asked.
Administrators from different hospitals spoken to said it was impossible for her to be allowed the luxury of sponsored nurse training bearing her cleaner position.
That is being too ambitious as there is an unwritten rule in the civil service that bars employees from being sponsored or sponsoring themselves to courses that are at variance with their existing trade.
The option for her was to quit her government position, go for nursing and come back to fight to re-enter the civil service.
This is what prompted her to altogether abandon work and embark on business.
â€œThe agony of sponsoring myself for a three-year registered nurse training was too much to bear. Hospital administrators, instead of encouraging me, sneered at my sudden change of career,â€ she lamented.
Aided partly by her new-found business, she joked that maybe as part of the much talked-about career progression she should have been sponsored to study a diploma and a degree in cleaning.
Another judicial worker has been at pains to convince his superiors to allow him to study law.
â€œAs a clerical worker with a division one at grade 12, I have raised finances to sponsor myself for a law degree but I canâ€™t afford to lose my current job to fulfil this desire,â€ he said.
Daily he has been agonising on his five years of distinguished contribution to the system, claiming law is too serious to be done by distance learning.
â€œI have literally mastered all the daily chores of court procedures under the tutelage of a magistrate, who knows my leanings towards law but laughs at my desire to study it full-time,â€ he complained.
This dilemma is also being faced by health workers, who maintained that career progression for nurses and clinical officers is blurred.
Our systems do not allow us to progress to medical doctor positions unless we start medical school from scratch.
Government, being the biggest employer, should put in place mechanisms that monitor young employees and lead them to the pinnacles of their careers.
All ministries must provide means of identifying and tracking staff through individual development plans.
There should be a long-term partnership between superiors and subordinates that weigh professional contribution and link it to training.
It is clear that a cleaner with good grade 12 results and five yearsâ€™ experience dispensing medicine can make a good nurse.
Utilisation of civil service practices to elevate workers in the lower ranks should now be our hallmark; it takes ages to bake fresh graduates.
The process of making progress to better jobs can only be enhanced by good supervisors and deliberate systems.
The author is a social and political commentator.