Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Working Education and Education Working

In 2006 I remember reading about this cute little man named Kimani Nganga Maruge, 86 who wanted to return to school.

“Eighty-six-year-old Kimani Nganga Maruge, seated in front, attending school in a tiny village just outside El Doret, in western Kenyain Kenya. Maruge surprised school officials when he showed up at the school asking to take advantage of a government program that promises free education for all citizens.”

He did come up against much opposition but this was nothing new to Kimani Nganga Maruge because he had endured not only his torture but watched as his wife and children were murdered. He stated "There are those who have pride in themselves," he says, "and those who don't like to work. But look at me! I do the hard work." He felt that those who have an education are the most successful.

Ah what does this have to do with health and safety? Nothing really but this little man has given me a smile, strength and endurance over the past several years and when I scanned an article about the Los Angeles County temporary student worker program it brought a little man from Kenya to mind.

Now this is not because the student worker program has been a success but because they have turned what should have been a victory into, at the very least, a colossal 30 year loss. This program was originally intended to give students government experience and it would of course benefit the County because they have no need to give part timers healthcare, sick days or any other benefits which they would normally gain after three months of full time work.

After students voted in the Local 721 SEIU and negotiations began it was discovered that some of these part time workers were working full time hours and up to 28 years as a student worker without being enrolled in classes and some who had originally been enrolled were not even qualified.

Out of close to 1,000 workers 73 workers were not enrolled in classes and 718 who were enrolled may not qualify for the student program. Well of course some tried to cover their butts by having many of the employees run to enroll in classes, which by the way only furthers the hardship for them since they get even less paid hours.

Well as one of my long time favorites Ollie said it best on more than one occasion, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." What can be done? Well personally I think these workers should demand full time positions so they can afford to go back to school and if they chose not to at the very least they can send their kids and insure they have some health coverage. Take it from Kimani Nganga Maruge "There are those who have pride in themselves." Stand up and fight for your right and don’t listen to those who say it is impossible. If the little man from Kenya can go back to school surely Americans can in the land of opportunity!

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