The "Working in Ghana" Project

Secretarial Services Proprietor

[In the 1970's Mr. Chris completed a secretarial course in a polytechnic institute. For the next 13 years he served several organizations as secretary. Then, 9 years ago, he established his own secretarial service in Bolgatanga township, in Northern Ghana. A man in his mid-forties, Mr. Chris has two wives and six children, five of whom are still living with him. Philip Awekeya spoke with him in the business office, which contains a computer, typewriters, and other office equipment.]

As head of this secretarial service, I initiate, direct, and execute the business's activities. I am responsible for the day-to-day functions. I want to harness all the potential that is in it to bring efficient secretarial service to the people of this region. To realize my objective, I pay particular attention to general administration and the organization of both labor and equipment of the business unit.

Throughout the five working days in a week I either attend meetings of groups and process their minutes, or supervise the office staff to photocopy written materials and documents, result slips, and certificates. I draft formal and informal letters for individuals and groups and give them to the secretary for typing. In addition to rendering these services to the public, I also offer secretarial training in typing, office management, commerce, and bookkeeping to young men and ladies who have at least the middle school leaving certificate or who have completed three years of junior secondary school. My intention in adding secretarial training to my business was to offer some skill to the youth of this region so they could gain employment in public offices and in the private sector. I also take in people from other parts of Ghana as well. Besides the regular secretarial courses, students learn how to handle and operate the telephone and the fax machine.

My business unit is properly equipped to render excellent secretarial services and secretarial training. However, I sometimes suffer discomforts because of insufficient inflow of funds to the business, due either to a drop in demand for my services or to the failure of students taking secretarial training to pay their fees. Despite the fluctuation of income, water, electricity, and post office bills keep pouring in and need my prompt attention. When I am faced with mounting bills, yet have limited resources to settle them, I feel worried and disturbed psychologically. At times I feel like calling off the business and taking an appointment with a state establishment. However, the fact that many people speak well of my efforts to develop the region by educating youth and rendering general secretarial services to the public, encourages me to stay in business. Their encouragement gives me the strong conviction that with time, business will pick up and I shall begin to reap benefits to make up for the long sufferings I have endured for the past nine years.

As someone who has had several years of work experience in secretarial duties, I know how to handle my office staff. I give instructions which do not sound offensive so the staff will be motivated to render good services. I never shout at them when they go wrong. I listen patiently to their complaints and do the best I can to make them feel financially and psychologically comfortable out of my limited resources. I also encourage the young ones who take secretarial courses to work harder to be able to pass the external examination so they can get employment at the end of the one year training program.

I see a bright future for my business. This strong hope stems from the fact that the public is slowly becoming aware of the usefulness of getting their wards to learn secretarial courses. There are also wider chances for the people of this region take advantage of my office equipment to communicate effectively with the outside world and within the country. What I need to do is to keep my doors open to the general public, be courteous to all, and render to all the best services possible so I can earn a larger income and thus be able to expand my unique business in this deprived region.

As of now I do not belong to any association. However, I know the importance of belonging to an organized association which could be useful in promoting my business. I am therefore taking steps to join the Ghana Secretaries Association. I have collected the necessary forms and filled them out. What is left for me to do now is to return the forms to Accra with the required membership dues so as to regularize my membership.

I also take time off on weekends to carry out volunteer activities in the villages. I organize the rural communities to undertake tree planting on an individual or a group basis. I do not earn any extra pay for this, but I do receive food and donations from foreign donors for the organization effort. I enjoy planting trees and nursing them to grow to maturity to provide shade, fruits, and to check wind and soil erosion.

My family depends largely on what I get from my secretarial business as well as on part of the gifts from the foreign donors. I am the sole support of both my wives, who are unemployed, and five of their children who currently attend school.

I feel proud of my social standing. I am widely known in this township by both regional and district government officials and private businessmen, especially the building contractors, as the proprietor of the secretarial service. I get quick assistance at the central hospital for both my family members and myself. I also receive prompt attention in the regional and district administration offices whenever I need their services. Often former students whom I trained in secretarial services pay me visits with little presents for my children. Through the open friendly gestures of people, I see the need to continue to sacrifice for the general interest of the region and my immediate family.