4 February 2013

Gambia: More Express Concern Over Change of Working Days/Hours

Notwithstanding the frequent successive announcements of exemptions of given categories of workers regarding the new changes in the working days and hours which took effect last Friday, 1 February 2013, some of those people who are still affected by the directive from the office of the president have continued to express their concerns. Almost all the respondents in the vox pop,

who include civil servants, are calling on the government to rescind the executive order and arguing that the new working regime has no tangible advantages or benefits to them as workers especially in terms of productivity.

Aji Fatou Jobe, a resident of Banjul, explained that her two children have refused to go to school on the first Saturday (2 February) of the new working days because, according to them, some of their peers have decided not to. She said when she woke them up in the morning to prepare for school, they told her that some of their classmates and also their own cousins who are staying with them in the same compound have said they will not go to school on Saturday as it has disrupted their whole learning schedule. Saturday, she explained, is a day which her children reserve for their laundry in the mornings and private classes in the evenings. She said she was relieved to hear later on that very day the news of the exemption of the schools from the new working days, adding that the new school schedule had really brought confusion as she was trying to figure out how to readjust their routine and adapt it.

Haddy Sanyang is a civil servant who resides in Sinchu Alagi and commutes to Banjul every working day. She explained that she is a single mother of two who takes along her children to school in Kanifing when going to work and picks them up when returning home. She said the new working days and hours are really disadvantageous to both herself and her two children.

"I used to close at work at 4pm and struggle for commercial transport to drop at Kanifing to collect my two children who are in grades two and four. After collecting them from their school between 4.30 pm to 5pm, I again struggle with them with so much difficulty to get transport to take us to our home in Sinchu. We would reach home at around 6pm the earliest or sometimes after 7pm depending on the availability of transport or whether or not there is a traffic jam in the busy Serekunda -Tabokoto highway. When we reach I would cook rice for the sauce which I have prepared the previous day or two which I will just heat to serve for lunch. We normally have our lunch during the working week between 7pm and 8pm. Sometimes the children would not even have enough time to revise or do their homework as they would immediately retire in bed after having their lunch late. So you can imagine what the situation is going to be for my family especially my children and their education and health if we would be coming home from work and school after 8pm", she explained.

Madam Sanyang said the situation would become worst for when this new working days and time is applied in the Muslim month of Ramadan.

"I have always dreaded Ramadan when it comes at a time when the children are going to school as it tears me apart with physical exhaustion", she said.

She concluded by making a fervent appeal for the executive to reconsider and reverse the order to the old working regime from Monday to Friday and 8am to 4pm or 12.30 pm on Fridays for the benefit of mothers like her and children like hers.

Abou Sabally is also a civil servant and parent who is in a rather similar situation like the previous interviewee. The only difference is that for him he has a wife who stays at home to manage the domestic chores. He too takes and collects his two children when going to and coming from work for the five days in the working week. He explained the transport difficulties which he always encounters when commuting with his children from home to school and back. "Now with the exemption of the schools from the new working hours and days, it would really be a punishment for the children to have to wait in the school from 2 pm until their parents close work at 6 pm to come and collect them for home. It is like asking them to wait for more than four hours without food, because parents like me are not in the position to be providing them with extra money to buy lunch. My salary is not enough to pay for fares and provide money to my two children for food at both break time and also lunch after school", complaint Mr. Sabally.

He also called on the authorities to reverse the new working days and time to the old one in consideration of the difficulties that it brings to the workers who commute with their children from home to school and back.

A clerk in one of the magistrate courts, who prefers anonymity, expressed his consternation over the new working days and hours vis a vis the numerous cases before the courts that are yet to be dispensed with. He said the new changes will exacerbate rather than expedite the backlog of cases. He said the five working days were even considered as insufficient at some point by the then chief justice thus warranting the addition of Saturdays as a working for some magistrate courts in order to address the backlog which, he added, poses a serious challenge to litigants and accused persons as it delays the process of dispensing justice.

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