The "Working in Ghana" Project


[Mrs. Nimadu is in her late forties. She has been an employee of the Post and Telecommunications Corporation for the past 27 years. She holds the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level. Mrs. Nimadu and her husband live with three of their five children in a house in a suburb of Accra. Philip Awekeya contacted and interviewed her at the post office where she works.]

Like every public servant in this country I am expected to report to work at 8:00 in the morning. However, I arrive at 7:15 because as head of this office I have the keys to the main door. I have to open by 7:20 so the cleaner can sweep the public areas, the stores and my office.

As post mistress my duties are both managerial and administrative. As administrative head of this office, I start each morning at this desk. I read all official correspondence from the district and national offices and take note of all letters that demand immediate reply. I also take action on whatever directives have been issued. For example, if I am requested to raise telephone call fees to a certain amount by a given date I follow the directive.

I assign duties to the staff under me and supervise their daily functions. For instance, I supervise the mail handlers and the staff working at the counter to ensure that none of them falters in their duties. I see to it that the mail handlers work honestly and do not divert mail to friends' addresses. I do this by occasionally picking mail at random from post office boxes to see if it has been properly placed. I caution the counter staff to be careful in selling stamps and air letters to customers and in receiving payments for telephone bills or calls made in the post office. At the end of the day I usually take time to cross-check the quantity of stamps issued to each of them against the amount they turn in as sales. These funds are remitted to the district office at the end of every week.

Each day I check the level of stock for sale to the public (stamps, air letters) as well as office stationery. Whenever I notice that the stock is running low, I make a requisition to the district office for immediate replenishment. I also am in charge of the equipment in this office, the building itself, and its immediate surrounding. I contact the district or national headquarters to request repair work on the building, such as repairing a roof leak or painting, or on the telephone equipment in the office. Also, as the person in charge and the oldest person on the staff, I take care of the staff's general welfare. When any of them is bereaved I organize the rest to make a cash donation to the affected person. Also when any of the young ladies approaches me with her family problems, I take time to counsel her, drawing on my rich personal experience in married life.

I take pride in my work. It is generally very peaceful, provided one is careful in the discharge of one's daily assignment. I feel satisfied with my schedule because I do only supervisory work and write official letters to both district and national headquarters. I get a chance to meet other postmasters from various parts of the country to exchange views and experiences about the job during quarterly meetings at the national office. I am astonished when I hear friends complaining about their jobs. I have never felt bored with my job. I always have plenty of work at hand and enjoy carrying out what is before me each day.

This building is a public institution and open to all manner of people. Sometimes madmen stray in here because there is no security person at the entrance to stop suspicious or doubtful characters from entering the public area where the counters are. We are therefore at risk from attacks by lunatics and even robbers. But I take these dangers as a normal affair and do not allow it to haunt me when I report for duty. No job is risk-free; there is even risk involved in eating food. Regardless of whether I face risks or hazards in this office, I must continue to serve the public as expected from me by my employer.

We are blessed that we do not lack materials to work with. I always make sure there are sufficient stamps and air letters to be sold to the public. The telephone in this office is also always functioning efficiently to serve the needs of the community. There is even a refrigerator here to provide us with cold water. The rooms all have electric fans to help reduce the heat and make the offices less stuffy. Since this post office is well equipped, my supervisors expect high performance from me. I am proud that I am ranked among the top three the post masters in this district. I make almost the highest weekly sales remittance and there are no adverse reports about my work attitude from this community. I am indeed proud that I have been here for the past six years with a clean record. Previous officers never lasted two years here without running into serious financial problems.

During the 27 years that I have worked with the Post and Telecommunication Corporation I have not encountered any misunderstanding with my immediate supervisor. I am by my up-bringing dutiful and humble. I never challenge my boss's instructions. If I do not understand, I ask for further explanation and as soon as I am clear what to do, I produce good results. I never attempt to undermine any of my co-workers or subordinates. I respect the views of my subordinates and listen closely to make them feel free to approach me. I never build a wall around myself. This is a public institution meant to serve the needs of the community. Its objective can only be realized when I work cordially with every member of my staff. All these young men and ladies working here like and admire me because I treat each of them firmly and fair. I don't discriminate because I know quite well that any show of partiality can wreck my administration.

Of late there has been considerable improvement in opportunities for promotion in the Corporation. Unlike some years back, when promotions were slow in coming, it is now easier to gain promotion by attending refresher courses after every five years and passing an end-of-course examination. One can also be promoted after serving six or more years in a given grade, provided one has a very strong commendation from one's supervisor.

The only quarrel I have with the Corporation is the placement of personnel with degrees. In my view, newly recruited staff from the University do not know the practical aspects of the job. I feel they should be placed at the postmaster grade in order to give them a chance to learn and master the job well. But the Corporation places these people above the postmaster grade in the national office to supervise those of us who have mastered the job for many years. Having the degree should not be the only criterion for placing personnel in senior management positions. Such appointments should be based on proficiency coupled with many years of dedicated service.

Of late, we at the Post and Telecommunications Corporation have received a good share of the national cake in terms of pay. For many years we were among the lowest-paid workers in the public sector. Now the wind of fair share has turned in our direction. It appears we are behind only the Customs and Preventive Service in terms of pay. We are slightly ahead of our friends, the teachers. We, however, lack transport service to and from work. With time I hope we shall cross this hurdle, for I believe in the saying, "success begets success."

All Post and Telecommunication workers belong to the National Trade Union Congress, which most workers in this country do not want to hear of. However I feel that the union executives are doing their best to promote workers' interests. They managed to impress upon the former military government to raise the minimum daily wage from 600 to 800 cedis (then, about $1.20 to $1.60). The unfortunate thing is that the cedi in recent times has become less valuable due to the high rate of inflation. This has rendered the achievement of our union leaders less valid. We must be fair, and acknowledge the laudable achievements they have scored in recent years, instead of glossing over their genuine efforts.

My family, especially my children, are happy with my job title. They feel proud that their mother holds a big position in the post office. Besides, I am able to buy them items they request because my pay is quite good. My husband, too, is happy that I contribute handsomely towards the household budget. And he admires me each morning when I am leaving the house for work, because I usually dress smartly to match my status as postmistress.

Through my position I have become popular not only in this town but within the district. Many people in the community call on me to arrange for a mailbox or for telephone service in their stores, shop or homes. I have an opportunity to attend head of department meetings at the town and district levels. I also get to meet senior officers of the Corporation from various parts of the country and to make friends with some of them. Through my position I can easily buy things on credit from departmental or private stores. I also am allowed bank overdrafts from my bankers as a result of my position.

Lastly, I wish to suggest that parents should endeavor to learn about the various job openings in this country, know thoroughly what each entails, and what aptitudes are required. Then they can counsel their children wisely as to which occupations they might be good at and have an interest in. The choice should not be based only on prestige, because that could easily frustrate the children when they are adults.