African viewpoint: A three-day week for Ghana?

A street cleaner - wearing Ghanaian football colours - in Kumasi in 2008

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Ghanaian Elizabeth Ohene considers whether Ghanaians, like Gambians, should be given longer weekends - to attend funerals.

By now almost everybody has heard about the latest edict from His Excellency, The President, Sheikh, Professor, Dr, Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, the ruler of The Gambia.

He has decreed that the public sector should embark on a four-day week work regimen, with schools the exception.

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Most of us spend weekends attending funerals around various parts of the country; that is how internal tourism works here”

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According to him, a shorter working week will allow Gambians to devote more time to prayers, social activities and agriculture.

Government employees will still work a 40-hour week, made up of four 10-hour working days starting at 0800 and ending at 1800.

I have been wondering if this was something we could adopt in Ghana.

The truth is that over here, public sector workers have always found ways to have four-day weeks if they want.

It is not official but many people end up doing four-day weeks.

I probably need to point out that we in Ghana take funerals seriously and these are time-consuming ceremonies.

Most of us spend weekends attending funerals around various parts of the country; that is how internal tourism works here.

Funerals are not one-day events.

Unwritten rule

I shall not get into all the rituals and arrangements that have to be done from the moment of death.

Nor am I talking about keeping bodies in mortuaries for months on end.

A coffin shaped like a shoe in a workshop in Ghana (Archive) Funerals in Ghana, famous for their bespoke coffins, are an all-weekend affair

I refer only to the time that has been agreed for the burial and funeral rites.

In many parts of the country, Fridays tend to be the days when bodies are taken home from the mortuary to be laid in state.

This is not something that can be done during the lunch-hour break.

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I have this horrible feeling that the weekends will end up as stressful as the working days”

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If you have a funeral to attend, you need to have Friday off and you are deemed to have a funeral when the dead person is a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse or partner, an in-law, a grand-parent, a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, a friend, a classmate, a nephew, a niece, a boss, someone you go to church with, a workmate, a neighbour and of course, a president.

In other words, you are likely to have a funeral every weekend.

Even though Fridays are official working days, we have all learnt to accept that if we have any business with anybody in the public sector it is not a good idea to try to go to the office on a Friday.

The unwritten rule is that business is conducted in the public sector from Monday to Thursday.

On Saturdays, we have services and bury the dead and have funeral rites and on Sundays we have thanksgiving services.

So, would it be a good idea to simply declare Fridays non-working days?

'Thank god it's Thursday'

I can think of a really smart way of packaging the announcement to make it sound like we are the business-like people that we indeed are.

A military cortege with the body of Ghana's late President John Atta Mills on 10 August 2012 in Accra Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral of Ghana's President John Atta Mills last year

It would go something like this: As part of innovative efforts to brand Ghana and make us a leading funeral tourist destination, Fridays will be spent organising funerals.

But something tells me if Fridays are sanctioned officially as non-working days in Ghana, Thursdays will become the new Fridays.

We shall thank God it is Thursday instead of thanking God it is Friday.

The impossible traffic in town will move from Fridays to Thursdays and we will spend endless hours stuck in traffic on the roads and officialdom will find reasons to make Thursday afternoons inconvenient for meetings.

I have this horrible feeling that the weekends will end up as stressful as the working days.

Then there is the other little problem of Ghana not having the equivalent of anybody who can simply decree that we change from a five to a four-day working week for whatever reason.

If you would like to comment on Elizabeth Ohene's column, please do so below.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    When I was a student in secondary school, a fellow student who had been sent home to collect his school fees, complained to the headmaster that the father could not afford the fees because 'business was slow'! It turns out the father made coffins for a a living.

    It is rather sad that these days, Ghanaians import coffins from China!! One local industry is dying out!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Your article elevates you to a new class of Ghanaian social engineers. For those who can afford that would be a great idea. But the masses, commercial houses and the private sector working nowadays on holidays including May 1, X'mas day, New Year, Easter etc. would not be happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Ghana can adopt a workweek that suits its culture, not one that suits other cultures. The five-day, Monday-Friday workweek is for the convenience of Western Christian societies. In the Arab world Sunday is a work-day but Friday is not; it is the holy day of worship.
    Ghana should have a work week suited to her society and should not be held hostage to a workweek better suited to other societies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Please Ghana, continue with your 5 days work week. Your country has a constitution well respected unlike The Gambia were it's one man show. People are hungry and i guess they will be more hungry sadly enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Since Funerals is such a big part of the country's economy generating so much business, consider it 3 days of regular work and 2 days of funeral work. No problem, productivity remains the same.


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