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Where value really lies

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“We will solve the crime problem,” say the well-paid desk pilots, and sign a piece of paper transferring 100 policemen and women to a gang-ridden township.

Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency(ANA)

AFTER reading my recent column about teachers, Mark Robinson wrote to say he was always puzzled by the fact that the three vital “service” professions – nurses, teachers and policemen (and women) – were among the least appreciated and worst paid in any country. He suggested this might be because these professions are often regarded as “callings”.

People become teachers or nurses because they feel they can make a difference, rather than regarding them just as jobs to earn a living. Many people join the police because their fathers were policemen and they recognise it as an honourable profession.

They come from police families. All these vital professions carry dangers and are often carried out in the most appalling conditions. In spite of this they are poorly paid and underestimated. I suppose the important folk who pay the salaries think: “They will do the job anyway, because they care about it, so why pay them a lot?”

I find it strange to think what careers the human race finds noble and important. Executives and government officials are well paid to sit behind big desks passing pieces of paper from their “in” tray to the one marked “out”.

They are provided with personal assistants to carry the full “out” tray away and the full tray of tea and biscuits in. The people who do the actual work – the diggers, the firemen, the paramedics, the teachers, the welders and the cops who face the gangsters – are often seen as mere statistics.

“We will solve the crime problem,” say the well-paid desk pilots, and sign a piece of paper transferring 100 policemen and women to a gang-ridden township.

“There. That’s enough for today. Lucy, pour me another cup of tea.”

Meanwhile 100 lowly paid police constables pick up their stuff, strap on their body armour and head out to face the violence while their families sit at home wondering whether they’ll survive another day.

On our farm there was a rule never to tell anybody to do a job you were unable to do yourself. I believe it’s a good rule. Before taking office the minister of police and the chief commissioner should go out on night patrols in dangerous areas.

The hospital administrator should spend some night shifts mopping up the mess made by sick patients and the director of education should try teaching a few unruly classes in the less salubrious suburbs.

Maybe there would be a little more thought to paying the people at the coal face – the people who do the actual work – what they deserve. Any idiot can push bits of paper about. With a Grade 2 education you could even sign it before pushing it.

Last Laugh

The teacher was trying to teach basic astronomy to her class. “Can anybody tell me what a comet is?” she asked. One hand went up.

“Yes, Jimmy?”

“It’s a star with a tail.”

“Good! Can you name one?” Pause. “Mickey Mouse.”