Today’s post is about something dear to my heart: telling the stories of those who have overcome challenges and excelled despite their humble beginnings as security guards. Just like the post I wrote about the Congolese hairdresser (here), this post is a bit of a tribute to a few of these brave souls, their courage and determination. I have had the pleasure of interacting with some and thought their stories should be told on ASA (that French and broken Lingala can be handy after all…lol!). I have decided to split the post into two parts [keeping to my promise of shorter posts :)]: in the first part, I try to answer many of the questions I often come across when speaking about security guards with various people (see below). In part 2, I share their specific stories.
Why leave your country to become a security guard?
The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the DRCongo is $384 in 2016 (this works out to $30/month) versus $200-250/month salary as a security guard. This means that these numbers as low as they are, still make sense for anyone falling in that income category that makes it out of Congo. In most cases, the person decides to sacrifice his quality of life in his host country (e.g. South Africa) to send at least a 1/4-1/2 of his salary back home.
Furthermore, many “economic and/or political” migrants that leave their country, only save enough money for their trip (plane ticket, visa, etc) and only have enough money to keep them afloat for a few months. Once arrived in the host country, securing an income (regardless of one’s background) becomes priority No. 1 and as we know immigrants are not exactly the preferred choice for the most attractive career choices.
I get the need for a job part, but why a security guard though?
Yes, I have heard that question many times (O_o)!!! In South Africa, it is one of the easiest jobs to get for foreign (and undocumented) immigrants. Naturally, many of my countrymen are in fact known to be “security guards”; it is also one that does not really require mastering your host country language i.e. English (which can be a real barrier especially for Congolese).
What about the educated ones? It is such a waste
I have heard people being shocked at the fact that many of the security guards are educated (i.e. have a tertiary education from their country of origin), why then settle for such a job? Based on the reasons above, you can understand that “something” however small is better than “nothing”. Well… Plus, one understands that it is not forever and it is a “for now”. I believe the ones humble enough to start as security guards while trying to find their feet and not starve should not be looked down upon but encouraged to move to the next level.
Wrong initial orientation
You will know from my post about what I wish I knew before I left my country (here), that the first year in a host country either sets you on the right path or can set you back depending on the circle you join. As you know by now, most Africans arrive into a family whose values/views end up shaping a lot of your first impressions of your host country. For e.g. regardless of where you come from and/or what your social ranking is back home, if the family that welcomes you suggests working a security guard as a first job based on where they are/what they do-this is likely to become the norm for you.
Could it be enough, is it all “they” aspire to?
Well, the blunt answer to that is a big “no” for most people. However, this depends on a number of factors, such as “papers” particularly (i.e. being legal), being able to speak/write well in English and have a valuable skill that can be used elsewhere. Some people do it full time and others do it part-time to supplement their finances (while either studying and/or working on their dream e.g. become a singer, etc) just like it has been the case with Uber drivers. Usually, the ones with ambition (and/or degree) only use it as a stepping stone and move on to something else within 2-3 years max. Part 2 will tell you more specific stories.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if you have more questions and/or want anything else discussed. Show some love and drop a comment below :).
Until my next post