Advance or Retreat: Health Promotion Officers?

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A ‘Health Promotion Officer’ or HPO is one of the qualifications the Gauteng Department of Health says all CHWs are supposed to have to boost their career. All the CHWs in all the regions in Gauteng are busy studying it, but the criteria they use is not the same.

In some of the regions, they choose CHWs according their level of education, in others they choose by age. So the right criteria they are looking for is not clear. Five or six CHWs was chosen from each clinic to participate in the HPO course.

In one clinic, after the team leader announced those chosen to go to ‘school’ to access the HPO qualification, the CHWs were angry saying that this is favouritism. Those who were not chosen wanted to know why, and this caused a divisions amongst the CHWs. There is not democratic processes in the workplace and CHWs are being divided and controlled.

As CHWs are now permanent employees of Gauteng Department of Health, we all have the right to all the benefits as employees. but it seems like this is still only a dream. We earn R8 500 a month, but monthly expenses are still high. Many spend about R1200.00 on transport every month, food prices are high as are school fees.

At the ‘school’ we have problems with poor wifi network, the water available is un-purified. The immediate environment is not suitable as a ‘school’. According to one CHW who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation: “We complained about the conditions at the school, but those in charged said we should be happy for the privilege of being on the course.”

The same CHW said: “We asked what was going to happen to us after completing the course? We were told that we will go go back to our positions for a year. When an HPO post becomes available we can apply and follow procedures, be shortlisted and interviewed. Then the suitable candidate will get that position. Now the HPO course has been suspended indefinitely as the service provider was not paid.”

It seems that working conditions are still precarious for CHWs in Gauteng. All CHWs need to be on the alert. The struggle is not over for CHWs in Gauteng.

The name of the author of this article has been protected.

This article was submitted in January 2022 and first published in the Forum News January 2022 edition. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


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