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Oreoluwa Sonola: We Need More Educated People In the Housekeeping Industry

Oreoluwa Sonola

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“Mummy, I’m going to work as a live-in house help for two years”.

How would you feel as a parent if you heard these words voiced by your daughter, who you have spent quite a fortune on educating? Surprised? Curious? Angry?

I hear people call this generation “a bunch of millennials who are filled with a sense of entitlement”. We think we deserve better, simply because we were born, or because we have been exposed to certain kind of life.
To be fair, I do not think it is any fault of ours. It is a mindset that we may have aquired probably from our parents or the western media.

When we were younger, we constantly heard things like “There is nothing you want that you can’t have”, “You’re a star”. And then growing up seeing a Justin Bieber whose net worth at age 23 is the value of my state’s budget, and has been that way for about seven years. Then, there really wasn’t any limit to what we hoped to achieve very early in life. However, as we grew, we quickly realized that the “bed of roses” life is nothing but fiction.

Recently, I was interacting with the owner of a maid agency in Lagos who wanted me to help train their staff, so that they would gain an advantage over other agencies. Before we got too far into the discussion, I asked to find out if their maids had some level of education, as that would make communication easier. The response I got was, in their own words, “many maid employers do not want educated maids because they are lazy and would cost more”.

To say I was in shock would be appropriate. But moving on, I decided to have a mini survey among my Instagram followers to know what they would prefer: an uneducated or educated maid.

Most employers said they would prefer someone educated. I felt vindicated. Why wouldn’t anybody want an educated person handling his/her affairs?

To clarify, by ‘educated’, I mean someone who has at least an SSCE and at most, a University degree.. Now, before you criticize me for indicating a degree holder should opt for a housemaid’s job, take a look at this analysis.

The average degree holder in Nigeria today is 22-25 years old, lives in his/her parent’s house and will spend some time applying for a job after NYSC.

My logic is this, if you have woken up every morning for a year in your parent’s house, to sweep, clean, cook, do laundry, stroll around, run errands for your parents and apply for jobs when you can, the only difference between you and a house-help is that he/she is getting paid and you’re not.

An educated house-help, working for an upper middle class family and above should earn between 30,000 to 40,000 Naira. That may sound small for a graduate to earn, but if you look closely enough, you will see that it comes with benefits that no other “corporate job” will offer you (Free accommodation, feeding, medicals, transportation, gifts and so on)

This means that as a domestic staff, you may not have the need to spend out of your salary on yourself, except on rare occasions. You earn this same salary as a secretary or customer service staff in an organization. Let’s look at what some of your expenses; there’ll be clothing, feeding, transportation, and even untold stress.

I worked in the bank for 4 years and had colleagues who earned something not too far from this amount. Yet, they had families, paid rent and had other running costs.

Following my analysis, at the end of the day, working as a domestic staff for one year would leave between 300k-450k saved in your account. I didn’t even have this amount saved working as a banker for one year.

So why does an educated person who has spent above one year looking for a job not venture into helping a family who needs help? Is it fear, the stigma or just ignorance of the opportunity?

Do we have an idea how the housekeeping industry will change forever if more educated and capable hands were involved?

The Make-up artistry and Fashion industry is saturated. Everybody has MUA as a profile description or “Fashion Influencer”, even though they are not known beyond the four walls of their houses.

The ‘lazy’ label may just be appropriate. Not because the educated ones cannot do the job, but because they have just chosen not to. They would rather been seen working hard in a suit than a tee-shirt and trouser.

My conclusion is this: many young graduates will rather continue to job-hunt for five years than to be labeled as a help. But does education really qualify us for anything? For the most, I think it just prepares us. It prepares us for the work ahead.

In the real world, hard work, resourcefulness, excellence, being able to go the extra mile, are few of the traits that qualify us.

As the saying by George Orwell goes; “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle”. It all still boils down to the entitlement mentality.

But what does an ordinary Maid Whisperer know?

Photo Credit: Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com

Oreoluwa Sonola is a Household Manager. She ensures the systems in homes run smoothly with little or no supervision from the homeowners. She creates management and training resources, procedural manuals, work schedules and SOPs for Domestic staff within the home and chore schedules for kids where the domestic staff is absent. Some of her resources can be found on her website www.maidformee.com  and Instagram and twitter @maidformee.

17 Comments

  1. Theresa Doghor

    May 3, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    For one, safety is an issue
    The typical “married woman” would see an educated woman living in her house as competition and let’s not even argue this, she probably might be knowingly or unknowingly.

    So try working in the house and cleaning it up and then returning to your house or cleaning the house for the week. That would work. Come in with your crew and clean ten different houses in a day or more if you have the staff strength. Do house chores and shopping if possible. Just iron out the kinks and you are good to go.

    But that live-in idea will have a lot of complications, trust me.

    Great idea?

    • Danidee

      May 3, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      I think the ‘live-in’ might be referring to folks still living with their parents/guardians. As is the case with most folks, especially in this education bracket he just highlighted.

  2. molarah

    May 3, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    This is an interesting one. I’d love to see how the conversationa around this topic go.

  3. Anne

    May 3, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Until there are set labour laws which clearly stipulate work duties/hours for a leave in help I doubt if this would work in Nigeria. A lot of graduates work as leave in helps/nannies in the diaspora. But guess what, their pay is very decent, their work is clearly stated as is their hours of work, God help you if you breach any of it, your help will prompty report you and the rest is history. Another factor is the so called ‘class’ issue. A graduate would rather work as a marketer earning 15-20k than a help earning higher than that because they would be ashamed to tell their colleagues they work as a help.

  4. Danidee

    May 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    This is a brilliant idea.

    – Free food and accommodation, assuming that these educated maids are living in their parent’s/guardian’s houses. No bills! (Except your people ask you to start paying rent. Lol!) I wonder though, would that be the main criteria of hiring? (Live in your parent’s house? You’re Hired!)
    – Less working hours, as workload might not have you engaged till 4pm and you probably start at 9am, when the occupants have gone to work and taken their kids to school. (Just an assumption on the time schedule, I have no idea about the facts).
    Makes sense.

    The kinks I find in this post are:
    – This analysis grossly assumes that all income is saved. Not a practical talking point. But, the general idea is gotten. You have significantly less. far less to spend on, except of course, yourself. Duh!
    – What about transport to your agency? I’m assuming the staff has to check-in with their supervisors weekly or something. Or maybe not. Perhaps, you do your evaluations online.
    – Does the agency provide transport fares that covers the trips between houses that the maid would be working in? (That should be expected, but, you know, gotta be sure)

    Otherwise, it’s very reasonable, while you wait for that Oyel-company to respond to your application from last year. Alas, this is the same wage rate with a lot of less professional jobs, less established companies and startups as well as some NGO’s! So, why not!

  5. Tutu

    May 3, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Would the employer also buy airtime and data and clothing? I get the point but 30k to 40k for SSCE graduate is cool but for a university graduate? That’s just mean! These guys work round the clock! No weekends off! You start working as early as 5am and then don’t sleep until 10pm or until Madam has slept. 40k for that is wickedness!

  6. CleanGirl

    May 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Anyways, I’m a graduate and I clean people’s homes & offices.
    It’s a one-off kind of business I do only on weekends & holidays for now, not live in. Call me if you need assistance with your errands within and outside your home during weekends and holidays.
    Location is Lagos, especially within the island for now but will definitely work something out for mainland and other states as business expands. Thank you.
    07083628327

    • Manny

      May 4, 2017 at 4:20 am

      You go girl!!!

  7. June

    May 3, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    First of all , Amazing article !!! It is the mind set that needs to change in this country. Work is work. And it is actually having educated people in all the different industries that will help us develop as a nation. In other countries , most young people while waiting for that dream office job work in the service industry. They make their money and get on with their lives. I hope we start seeing jobs as jobs and not as a definition of who we are. It’s about working with integrity and pride and just being professional !

  8. Ocean Beauty

    May 3, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    To think my mum trained my siblings and I from her salary as a housekeeper. It wasn’t when she became a housekeeper that we lived in a proper house. She’s still a housekeeper till date. She has no closing hours especially when her employer is in town. And she is so dedicated that her former employer still requires her services as he never found a replacement when she left.

  9. Ocean Beauty

    May 3, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Don’t be a housekeeper if u are not patient and can’t chop insult.
    Also let’s not forget everyone won’t be a master. Some will have to start from the bottom and work their way upwards.

  10. Msbeeshouse

    May 3, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    I saw this post and I smiled. I find it very interesting. Like the Oreoluwa said.. We truly need more educated housekeepers in the industry. Education certainly doesn’t mean the four walls of a classroom. I would rather look at it from this angle,
    -what exactly is housekeeping, what does it mean to people when they hear the word. Especially for working moms you can be overwhelmed if you don’t get the needed help. So I would say housekeeping is much more than cleaning,more like my personal planner or my PA handling home affairs . I once had a lady about 20/22 years whom I took through on job description and my expectations from her, worked with me for 18 months and I never had to raise my voice, I was blessed with her, duties were:
    -Ensuring the house was clean, we had to classify routine and periodical cleaning so she doesn’t burnout herself, she did cooking, we had meal plans and was allowed to also use her initiative at different times, she ensured my kids were prepared for school every morning. Ensured all clothes were well laundered. Ensured we didn’t run out of supplies- toiletries, foodstuffs, so now if you look at this you realize the person must have a high level of IQ if not you will be irritated.
    My agent says she could go for a day off in a month, but I loved her like a sister I allowed her go for two/three days to her family, friday-sunday, she comes back feeling refreshed, she’s part of my family and looks healthy. I also allowed her learn bead making for 4months alas!! After that she wanted to leave… I let her go with love and my blessings, she doesn’t have ssce but shes humble and teachable.
    I never could replace a live in maid after her…
    As a graduate I doubt they could do all I stated without being bitter …my take would be employ them as day housekeeper who comes and goes and task list must be set to guide, western world have them in all shades, baby sitting, running errands or general housekeeping. By the way I studied Hotel management in school and my career of over 15years has been in the housekeeping dept of hotel as an Executive Housekeeper. Housekeeping is surely not a joke. If the graduate concerned would be humble then it’s something they could consider. We need smart people who can plan and prioritize duties..
    Training is key irrespective of level of education.

  11. Funmi

    May 3, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    If a univeristy graduate decides to work as a housekeeper or nanny i would expect that both parties draw up a contract which states the agreed tasks, daily working hours, work days and holidays.

    We are so used to having domestic workers at our beck and call in Nigeria which is why it almost seems impossible to break free from that thought pattern. People get live in housekeepers and nannies when in reality they dont really need them to be a live-in.

    I think it is the working conditions of these jobs not the stigma that prevents most unemployed graduates from taking a good paying nanny or housekeeper job. I personally know someone who said if she could her nanny would never get any day off. We treat our domestic workers as servants instead of employees. This is where the stigma comes in.

    That being said some people will work as cleaners, housecleaners and nannies in western countries but wont do it in Nigeria even if the pay is good. I dont know what to make of that. Nigerian parents would treat foreign domestic workers better than nigerian workers, We have seen that with filipino vs nigerian nannies in lagos.

    “many maid employers do not want educated maids because they are lazy and would cost more” –Cost is not the issue, they simply want a servant, most educated people will not knowingly work as a servant.

    We are seeing an unprecedented unemployment rate in Nigeria. I think it has changed some graduate job seekers minds as to the kind of jobs they would take. But it still hugely boils down to working conditions.

  12. Anne

    May 3, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    The average graduate feels the role is beneath her and ‘ na only condition make cray fish bend’ This will affect her attitude towards the job. It is better to employ someone who sees her job as a big deal. The same graduate who puts a lot of effort if Shell employs her will be lazy about the role of a housekeeper why should an employer waste money.

  13. Idomagirl

    May 4, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Well maybe it’s a good thing graduates aren’t taking these jobs…there are millions of uneducated Nigerians, they too need to earn a living.
    I’m looking at it from that perspective.

  14. jumbo

    May 4, 2017 at 10:41 am

    On a lighter note this Article reminds me of the Season Film “”Devious Maids. The more educated the more devious……

  15. Jolaoluwa Abokede

    May 4, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Who knows a good agency?

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