|During one of the dry spells to which we have become so accustomed, the school where I was ran out of water. All the rain tanks were empty and learners started bringing water from home, while farmers filled a water tank for water to be used in the toilets.|
I approached the counsellor of our ward and asked to arrange for water from the airport to be brought to the school. Two days later we had enough water and I phoned her to convey our gratitude.
The next Monday I received a call by a very disappointed counsellor. "I specially bought the newspaper last week but I didn't see anything in it about the trouble I went to with the water for the school." I was astonished to say the least, not so much because she thought that making a phone call to arrange water for the school was newsworthy but because she actually thought that what she had done was over and beyond her duty as a counsellor.
Last week, as I listened to a counsellor in my present town, complaining about the press only putting negative things into the newspaper I was reminded of the water issue at the school. As the counsellor lambasted members of the press for relentlessly going after and reporting on the alleged theft committed by a senior counsellor I wondered if he was listening to what he was saying.
He kept on hammering on the fact that the press would rather expose a negative issue than comment on the positive things that are done and as an example he mentioned a recent function where the senior counsellor officiated with little mention of it in the press. I couldn't help but wonder whether the function mentioned wasn't just part of his job in any case. We seem to live in times where people have come to think that to do one's job is a special event. It isn't.
If a teacher arrives at school every morning at 07:30 and leaves at 15:00, does all his preparation, marks all the books, gets his learners through their grade and helps with sports coaching, he probably won't end up in the newspaper; for that he would probably have to receive an award or do something quite out of the ordinary. A sure way of getting into the newspapers would be to hit his principal or arrive at school intoxicated and park his car halfway into the school's foyer.
Similarly, if a counsellor, municipal worker or politician sees to it that citizens have clean water, houses, sanitation and manages the tax payer's money according to the law, he is doing his job, nothing more.
Have our standards and our expectations of service delivery diminished to such an extent that simply doing ones job properly has become a newsworthy event? Recently there was an article in newspapers about a counsellor who took his own money to buy gardening implements and spent his own spare time to clean up an overgrown and unsightly area in his ward. It was a small gesture involving lots of sweat but it was newsworthy because it was an example of doing something over and above what was expected.