Working and studying for a better future

Cleaner and evening class student David Osagie

In his native country of Nigeria David Osagie travelled from one village to the next trading in goods. In Finland he is just getting used to the working habits here. He thinks the Finnish work culture seems fair. Osagie is a cleaner but wants a challenge and to earn a better living. In the evenings he is studying to become a welder.

David Osagie, 31, is from Nigeria, from Benin City, which has 3.5 million inhabitants. There he went to a school to prepare him for high school, but he dropped out of college because he was interested in business. He plied a trade from village to village. He came to Finland in 2004 and lived in Imatra for the first two months.

“I moved to Helsinki because I wanted a social life and I got a job as a cleaner here.”

Osagie has cleaned for six companies, and for the last two years has been a temp agency worker at the restaurant Mamma Rosa. He works from 6.30.a.m. to 11.30.a.m. Flexitime allows him a little latitude, but he does not always have time for his lunch hour. Everything has to be ready when the customers arrive. He needs to be quick and ready to deal with criticism. If it comes he has to know how to take it.

“In Imatra I found out about cold winters and hot saunas. I’ve already started to like having saunas.”

“The best thing about my work is that I get immediate feedback. If I work well I can go home. The idea that the customers are able to come into a clean restaurant gives me a warm feeling. The worst thing is when I have to do work that is nothing to do with me or I have to work when I am ill.”

Poor command of the Finnish language might make it hard even getting cleaning work. Osagie has not encountered racism in Finland, but it seems to mean a lot how long a residence permit is valid for when you are being hired. Osagie thinks that foreigners are often expected to work harder and longer than Finns.

“But you have to learn Finnish, anyway. It helps you to fit in and understand what is happening in the world better.”

Osagie does not want to clean all his life. In the evenings he is studying at the Omnia Adult Education Centre in Espoo to become a welder. All the instruction is in Finnish. Osagie’s dream is to work in a big company in a job which is suited to his level of training.

Osagie’s Finnish wife is a nurse. They also have a one-year old son. Osagie spends all his free time either studying or with his family. He likes visiting friends, going on picnics and shopping.

“I want to make time for my family and my interests, the biggest of which are cooking, reading and meeting new people.”

Text and photograph: Anu Likonen, Jukka Vuolle and Nanni Akkola
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy

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