By ALYSSA HARRISON
“Nam ndiphilile nkosi, unjani?”
Nomaphelo Kate greets every student cheerfully as she dishes their food, from pizza to stew to pepper steak pie. She always makes sure to greet every student with just as much enthusiasm as the last. The clatter of pots and pans can be heard in the background, the kitchen abuzz with activity.
Kate is part of the kitchen team at the Allan Web Dining Hall. From twenty past six every morning, she helps to prepare food and gets ready to serve it for the first flurry of students at seven o’clock. She clocks off at twenty past seven in the evening. She often works throughout the weekend.
There is only one tap between all the kitchen staff, making it challenging to finish cleaning dishes in time. Loadshedding also makes things tight for time. One morning, the electricity went off at nine and stayed off for two hours. This left a half-hour window to finish preparing for lunch at twelve. Sometimes, staff have to be transported to bigger kitchens to finish preparing the food there.
Despite these challenges, Kate speaks enthusiastically about her work. Her face lights up with pride as she talks about the other kitchen staff. “We work as a team,” she says. “We enjoy our work very much.”
But there is always something nagging at the back of her mind.
With employment being very scarce in South Africa, Kate has been hustling for jobs since she obtained her Matric certificate. She did six months of computer lessons after Matric before completing some courses in business management. She then became a casual worker, doing jobs such as a cashier at Shoprite. She has been on the permanent staff for the past four years now, but she wishes to continue studying because she dreams of getting a better job in business management or becoming an entrepreneur. She dreams of buying a big home for herself and her family and of driving her own car.
But for now, Kate is content.
“This job, I love it because it helps, even if I have some stress at home. But when I meet you guys [students], you make my day.”