I was waiting to post this, until the dust settled. But Monday will be a month after the second round of layoffs, and the dust hasn’t settled, and looks more likely to hang in the air for months, or perhaps even be swept up into a localized dust bowl, and I feel awkward and constrained, not talking about what’s been going on.
A while ago, the beginning of February, I think, all of the Machaworks pieceworkers were laid off due to lack of funds with which to pay them. Most of my fellow computer teachers at LITA were pieceworkers, so this was more than a little weird. But what was there to do? Belts were tightened, I started teaching an extra class a week, and we kept going.
In mid-February, Moses and Clare mentioned to me that they were still waiting for the paychecks that should have come at the end of the month, and that their December paychecks came in mid-January.
On March second, all of my remaining coworkers — all of the Machaworks people, with the exception of the teachers at MICS — were summoned to a meeting and told that there was no longer any money to pay them.
Hypothetically some people would be rehired in two weeks, but we’re coming up on four weeks this Friday, and I haven’t seen any signs of it.
And last week the excitement was that the ZESCO bill had not been paid, and our electricity (which powers both the water pump and the computers I teach on) would be shut off on Monday. It’s still here, and possibly the bill, or some portion thereof, was paid yesterday, but I don’t actually know that, because a) there are no formal avenues of communication (officially, I don’t even know that anything is going on) and b) a bunch of the former Machaworks employees formed a mob yesterday over at the restaurant, asking for the guy in charge of the company and the expatriate who set up all the Machaworks stuff before turning it over to Zambians, and demanding either their jobs back or the paychecks that Machaworks is in arrears on (all of February, I think).
I don’t feel personally in danger. Everybody knows that I wasn’t ever getting paid, and while there’s anger and frustration, it’s not directed at me or at white people in general. I haven’t even seen any signs of disturbance. I just keep teaching, because LITA is still open, not because anyone there is being paid, but because my teaching boss decided that it would be better, both for the students and for the long-term future of the school, if classes continued. I think that’s a very responsible decision on his part, but flows of money and accountability are getting increasingly weird, and for myself, I’m more and more dubious that Machaworks can hold it together long enough that we’ll finish this term.
Clare left on 4 March, and Moses left the Wednesday after. I have new neighbors who moved in right away, and we get along okay, but we still don’t really know each other, and there are a lot more kids and a lot more chaos than there ever used to be. I miss Moses’ friendly companionship, and the joy in Clare’s voice when she’d come home and hug baby K. The new baby cries a lot more, and I miss baby K’s near-constant cheerfulness and huge smiles.
I’m managing. I teach, and try to work out boundaries with the new batch of kids, and try to figure out who all the kids belong to, and how many of them actually live here and how many live somewhere else. I go over to Ester’s and take shifts as company/extra baby holder, and wonder how people ever survive twin babies. I’m beginning to be able to believe that the power won’t disappear forever with each new power outage. Life goes on.