In the first few days in Cape Town Mila went to the shops that had advertised for cashiers online. She was told to drop her CV and they would get back to her.

In her second week of job hunting she had gone for an interview for an assistant at a small hotel. When she got home she felt down.

“How could they ask me for a driver’s license? It is so unfair. We don’t even have a car at home, but they expect me to have a driver’s license! How? With what money, mpfm!” She just knew she wouldn’t get the job because of that.

That evening she checked the Careers Section of the Monday newspaper as she sat at the dining room table. “This shop needs a security officer with a PSIRA registration. What is that?” Mila asked Viola.

“Go ask Jack, maybe he might know these terms. I don’t want to lie, I don’t know,” she said.

Jack was busy marking essays. Mila felt guilty for disturbing him. He looked up when she came in, put down his red pen and took off his glasses, wiping his eyes for a while.

“Let me see the advert,” he said.

Mila handed the paper over to him. He looked at all the posts for a while, nodding his head.

“PSIRA stands for Private Security Industry Regulation Authority. You need training,” Jack explained.

“So…? So I must not even try to apply for this security post?” asked Mila, disappointed.

“First you need to study for the security grades and then on top add this short PSIRA certificate. I think this helps to make sure that you are well trained to be a security guard.”

“What kind of training now? I have seen security officers standing by the door in shops, doing nothing. I never knew they had to train to do that. And you talked about grades. What are those grades? I thought one could be a security even if you don’t have Grade 12.”

“I’m afraid not. There are several grades, from E to A, which is the highest with more pay. Grade A means you can also use a firearm.”

“A firearm? No! No! I don’t want to be collecting money from shops. I just need to work at a shop or something,” said Mila, shuddering at the thought of handling a gun. She shook her head and threw her hands in the air. “Eish, this is tougher than I imagined.”

“So, in your first interview they wanted someone with a driving license? Mm! I think you should try and do your learner’s license as soon as you can. Then I will teach you to drive …”

“Okay bhuti, I will book one next week,” Mila promised. If she could drive she would get a job, she felt sure.

The following morning Mila had an interview at an agency that found jobs for child-minders and au-pairs. As she pulled on her black court shoes, Mila wondered what qualifications they needed. Going to the mirror, she decided she looked great in her straight-cut, black skirt with a plain white blouse. She tied her hair neatly in a bun as usual. There was no-one to check her outfit: Viola and Jack were already at work, and her nephews were at school.

“Please God I need this job. I pray that you go with me. Amen.”

She practised the interview in the mirror:

“I think I am the perfect candidate for this job because … because I love children very much. I promise to look after them with love and care.”

It didn’t sound convincing. Anyway what did she know about looking after babies and toddlers still in nappies? Just the thought of changing nappies made her feel sick. But it was a job. And right now, any job would do.

She tried again: “I will be good for this position because first all I have done child-minding in my community, when I was still living in the rural area. Working mothers would leave their children with me when they went to fetch water or went to the shops.”

That also sounded unconvincing. When she reached the agency she was so nervous.

“Molo Sisi,” Mila greeted one of the candidates who was waiting for an interview. The lady looked well into her thirties. She was carrying a file full of different certificates, but Mila could not see what they were for.

“Hi girl,” the lady said, looking her up and down disdainfully, like she didn’t approve of her at all. “Have you worked as a child-minder before, then?”

“Not really, but I did watch kids for the women in my neighbourhood, when their mothers had gone to the shops or to fetch water.”

“Ha! This is not the rural areas, my girl. We are not in the villages here! Do you know what it takes to care for a baby?” The lady looked at Mila with such scorn that Mila didn’t know how to answer.

“Let’s say you are watching my child, and I am at work and you are the only one in the house. The child starts choking. What would be the first thing to do?”

The lady smiled smugly.

Mila looked at her blankly. She had no idea.

“Next candidate please!”

The lady jumped up and went in for her interview, leaving Mila alone in the reception area. What would I do if a child chokes? Give her water? Heyi I don’t know? She had never ever thought about those kinds of questions.

When it was her turn Mila was already shaking like a leaf.

“Take a sip of water. Just be calm, be yourself. We will ask you a few questions, okay?” said one of the interviewers kindly, noticing how nervous she was.

Mila grabbed the jug and tried to pour water into one of the glasses, but because of her trembling fingers she spilled some on the table. In a second everything was a mess.

“Grace! Grace please bring us a cloth quickly,” one of the interviewers shouted, clearly upset. Tears trickled down Mila’s face. She wished for the earth to swallow her immediately.

“I am so sorry,” whimpered Mila.

That evening she did not even have appetite for the delicious food that Viola had prepared.

“Don’t worry mnt’asekhaya, you will get a job. Do not stress yourself. I did not know myself that they would need you to have a First Aid Certificate! Hey, things are tough these days,” said Viola, calming her teary sister down.

She felt so helpless for her. It was too painful to watch her sister hurting like this, because Mila was certain she wouldn’t be put on the agency’s books.

Mila cried herself to sleep. She didn’t see the WhatsApp from Monza that said:

I’ll pick you up tomorrow.
Let me know where.
A job has come up at my work.
You’re perfect for it!


Tell us: What certificates do you think would come in useful for a child-minder job?