JOB MARKET: Banda adds caring touch to funerals
WHEN it comes to choosing a career, few would opt to work as a mortician in the funeral service industry. But if more people were aware of the value of this job, they might reconsider it.
Prisca Banda, a certified mortician, believes her career is a calling and that she provides an important service to the community.
Zambian-born Banda comes from a medical background and it isn't difficult to see why she developed an interest in this field early in her life.
She learnt much of what she knows from her father, a qualified embalmer - he embalmed Zambia's late president Levy Mwanawasa.
Banda also has qualifications in hotel management and business administration, and is a certified nurse assistant, but the funeral industry is her first love.
Understanding the job
In South Africa, the job of a funeral director and mortician varies. Funeral directors work with the deceased's family to plan funerals, handle removals from the place of death, direct funerals and complete the paperwork for burials and cremations.
Usually, morticians only work with the deceased.
Banda says she enjoys both aspects of the industry.
A mortician' s duties involve helping people to honour the deceased and making it easier for loved ones to deal with bereavement.
Banda says that when a person dies , the mortician prepares the body, using embalming techniques.
This preserves the body and prepares it for viewing. Depending on the cause of death, a mortician carries out restorative art to restore the deceased's facial features or cosmetically beautify the deceased with make-up.
"Making the deceased look lovely is the most rewarding aspect of my job. It makes me proud that I can help mourners remember their loved ones when they were at their best," she said.
Is this the job for me?
"You spend much time with the deceased, but you have to deal with bereaved families all the time and people won't be at their best," she said.
Morticians need a solid knowledge of biology and human anatomy.
One must be sensitive to cultural customs and be patient, kind and particular about details. The deceased must be treated with respect.
"I always consult the family on how they wish to honour the deceased and I follow that to the last detail," Banda said.
She also has to ensure that the mortuary is clean at all times.
She says teamwork is important. From the first call from the family , the mortician has to communicate with staff at the funeral home , until the burial has taken place.
What the future holds
There is a shortage of qualified morticians in South Africa.
"I want to make a difference and change the way people, especially women, perceive this industry . This used to be a man's job, but there's nothing stopping women from doing it. Women bring a certain softness to the job and the profession needs us ," she said .
Banda said people sometimes ask strange questions, but this is only because they don't understand the job.
She believes that her involvement in training and education at the Funeral Academy for Africa in Pretoria, the first mortuary science training school in Africa, will help to remove inaccurate perceptions of morticians and the industry. - sacareerfocus