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GUEST POST: My ‘Safari’ – From Being A Bank Teller In Kenya To A Sacked Refuse Collector In Gozo

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Former banker Dave Maoga moved to Malta on a student visa, intent on continuing his studies locally. Leaving his family behind in Kenya to pursue his career, he became a refuse collector in Gozo before being sacked due to speaking out about abusive working conditions.

It has been a nightmare for almost everyone over the recent few months – we would call it an extremely a long safari (journey).

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the world bent to her knees, and even with recovery efforts, most people will struggle to get back on their feet, and sadly some may not be able to stand again.

Hundreds and thousands of people lost their jobs, businesses, and even their homes. The worst part has been the multitude of deaths – greatly felt in most European countries and the Americas – and this has led to people living in fear, increased anxiety and irritation. 

In Africa, the situation is different as the cases are in manageable numbers. But this global pandemic has been a wake-up call to humanity; we need each other to rebuild our nests and devise ingenious tactics to confront such serious situations in the future.

A friend had asked me how I got to Europe, especially the Maltese Islands, from Kenya.

One key consideration when one travels to another country on a long-term basis should be language – especially those seeking career advancement. However, on the face of it, this is not always the case for everyone. 

Kenya is an English-speaking country and so is Malta. Recently, Lovin Malta ran an article featuring my experience in Malta. I’ve been working in the utility industry for a couple of months and during this period, I was able to have the wherewithal of a basic life for my three lovely girls – my wife and two daughters.

Maoga and his two daughters

Maoga and his two daughters

Over the last few months, I was able to lend a helping hand to provide for some of my younger siblings’ education and to keep my extended family’s lives rolling during the lockdown. Unfortunately, my relationship with my boss went sour, and I lost my job. I’m one of those who were cut off from employment and to me, this was a chance to rejuvenate and shed some negative aspects from my past.

I was born into a polygamous family.

Our father passed away at the age of 60 from cardiopulmonary arrest. With two wives and 15 children, he has quite a huge story to be told. In a society where women depend entirely on their husbands, when the husbands are gone forever, the poverty that has been roaming right outside in the corridors strikes hard.

We would go for days without food, we couldn’t afford medication and most of the necessities. I witnessed my two young sisters get married at the age of 14 and 15.

They couldn’t withstand the situation at home and my broken mother had zero strength remaining to protect them. This is how poverty is transmitted from generation to generation in Africa.

Despite this, I was able to push hard and excel in my studies. At our tender age, my siblings and I would work as labourers for €1.50 a day each for food while still going to school.

To date, I partly support my two sisters who got married at a tender age because they landed in a situation exactly like my parents did. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

Of course, this was far from my mother’s dream, but the situation was out of her hands. I saw her helplessly break down in tears on several occasions. There is no pain that compares with seeing your helpless mother shed tears while trying to hide it from us.

Immediately after my graduation from my first degree, I landed a job at a Kenyan local bank – as a bank assurance officer with a scanty pay of €157 a month. 

I think I am one of the most patient men I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure how I was able to keep up with this meagre salary for three years. This situation pushed me to resort for alternatives and with a study visa, I landed in Europe, leaving behind my wife and children who need my presence the most.

My younger child was a few months old then and, to date, she knows her dad is only found on a video call.

I can’t wait to reunite with them, hug them again, and spend a lifetime together with them.

Now working as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Mġarr at night and as a garbage collector in the morning was a huge experience.

When collecting garbage, ideally, we must run fast enough to keep up with the truck. Those in Għajnsielem and Qala were able to witness this – they called me Mo Farah.

Sometimes when I’m free, I’d go help a friend in Xagħra on his orange farm. This is the profound willingness to do something new to receive what I’ve never had. It was a huge sacrifice – an experience worthy of a herder selecting his best lamb for immolation.

I once read a quote: “If you are white, we want your money, and if you are from Africa, we want your cheap labour. When you are fully exhausted, we help you back home.”

No matter how hard you try, you may not land a professional job that matches your academic qualifications as a black man in a ‘Whiteman’ land.

To me, this sounds a myth that I am yet to demystify. But I know I must begin with something, no matter what it is. Landing a dream job is no accident. One must build a strong ladder and that’s what I’m doing – to pull myself up by my bootstrap at all costs.

One man I worked with is a Somalian who came to Malta by sea. He has no formal education, but this did not stop him from ensuring Gozo is clean.

Well, his coming here is justifiable since Somalia is a battlefield. His experience was a nightmare. He embarked on his safari from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum to Libya through the Sahara Desert – a ride that took several days. He spent five months on the journey before arriving in Malta.      

He saw several of his friends die on the way as a result of exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration. Some simply drowned.

As a Kenyan, I’ve grown to witness the conflict persistently ensue at the Horn of Africa. The continuous conflict has seen Somalia become a collapsed state.

Civilian deaths have become the order of the day. Assault, rape, mass killings, detention and torture, death threats, and abuse by insurgent forces. The Kenya Defence Force is one of the military forces playing a key role in combating Al-Shabaab, an Islamic insurgent group causing chaos in the area. Al-Shabaab is a terror group in Somalia that employs terror tactics equivalent to Al-Qaeda.

This group is determined to fight and dominate in Somalia indefinitely to keep enjoying robust and forced domestic financing through illegal taxation.

The presence of the Kenyan Defence Force in Somalian territories has been the reason for targeted attacks and killings of Kenyans by these goons. 

One chilly morning in 2015, Kenya woke up to a disheartening experience when four gunmen attacked a local University, killing a total of 148 people – most of them students. The goons stormed Garissa University College at around 5.00am, singling out Christians who were getting ready for morning prayers, shooting indiscriminately and killing them. This was one of the deadliest Al-Shabaab attacks to ever happen in Kenyan history.

Instability in Somalia prompted an influx of people fleeing this violence, the majority of whom are women and children, trying to find safer hideouts for over three decades now.

Among the places are the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya while young people resort to Europe from the sea. My partner had to make a Hobson’s choice – to die by gun or try his luck through the sea.

He separated with his family and embarked on a safari.

Securing a letter to study a second degree at the University of Malta is so dear to me.

We travel to other countries in the quest for new opportunities and to fulfil dreams, compared to an asylum seeker whose primary reason is to escape life-threatening situations.

Now, a right to education or work means a faster integration into the labor force and this translates to how fast one can be productive in society. One of my statements to the University of Malta was the commitment to positively impact the Maltese community – especially the school community.

In most cases, people are skeptical about whether to accept immigrants or not.

Some believe that besides stealing the natives’ jobs, immigrants also change the fabric of society’s culture. But I believe we can implement change for the better by introducing new ideas, customs, and even art if given a chance.

Besides, we have a completely different set of skills and we can compete harmlessly to improve the economy and expand the culture and demystify the mere misconception of culture erosion.

I don’t mean you take or accept everything from us – but give us a chance to flaunt what we have. In Kenya, there are more than 40 tribes with different traditions and beliefs. We embrace them, but we also do not accept harmful traditional practices that affect the well-being of the majority of others; an example is the female genital mutilation – a practice that affects the health of women and children.

I’, looking forward to creating a friendly coexistence by making Malta a better place – as my home, as long as I’m staying here, of course.

Lovin Malta is open to external contributions that are well written and thought-provoking. If you would like your commentary to be featured as a guest post, please write to hello@lovinmalta.com and add Guest Post in the subject line. Contributions are subject to editing and do not necessarily represent Lovin Malta’s views.

What do you think of Moaga’s experience?

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