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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The Mechanical Engineer

by Alhassan Lamin
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I am a 50-year old mechanical engineer on the MV Freetown Ferry. Working as an engineer inside the ferry is hectic, even during regular times. Once you enter the engine room, you are in there for the rest of the day, and most times, things like food or water are not accessible. The salary is also not encouraging. Our employer gives us whatever they want, even if you have higher qualifications and skills. I have a higher national certificate in automobile engineering from Kenema Polytechnic. My experience is diverse because I have worked for other major companies. With my hard labor and my skills, I earn the minimum wage SLL 600,000. 

The COVID- 19 pandemic made a bad situation even worse. During the lock-down, I had to sit at home without anything to do. Our company didn’t make provisions for us. We had no pay for the first three months. It wasn’t until July that we got 50 percent of our monthly salary. For August, our salaries came late; we only got paid when we went on strike. 

My rent is overdue, and my landlord has given me a notice letter to leave his house by the end of the year. My wife’s business is not doing well, and she was supporting me. The price of goods has gone way up. She had to ask her relatives for help, and that’s shameful for me.  Feeding the family has also been another constraint. It’s now down to three times a week; we manage with whatever there is on the off days.

My other worry right now is the reopening of schools. As you know, purchasing school materials is costly at this time. The government didn’t give us early enough notice. I haven’t prepared anything.

Credit: Essential Stories/OSIWA

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