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Feature Article of Thursday, 4 October 2012

Columnist: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley

Does The Teacher No Longer Matter?

Are Politicians in Ontario and Ghana being Respectful and Fair to Teachers in those States?

Asks Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview Middle School, Toronto-Canada

I think the sticker: If you can read this, thank a teacher is losing its relevance on some politicians. It is disturbing to trace the soar relationship that has developed between the government of the Ontario Province of Canada and teachers in the province. Such was the relationship which characterized the tension between teachers in Ghana and the NPP as well as the NDC governments some years back in that country too!

Education has been the major facilitator and catalyst in the astonishing changes and transformation sweeping through the world today. The role of formal (school) education in the liberation of the individual mind as well as economic dependence and in national development is therefore quite obvious. The major stake-holders of formal education are the government, the teacher, the parent and the community. These major players in education ought to have mutual respect towards each other to promote the well being of students. Teachers are the pivot for ensuring successful learning process in the classroom. They are expected to bring equality learning experiences to the students they (teachers) teach.

Unfortunately, Premier Dalton McGuinity of Ontario who was ‘put in power’ with votes of teachers some years back has now turned his back to teachers by passing Bill 115 taking away teachers’ right to go on strike. According to Teachers’ Unions in Ontario, Bill 115, "The Putting Students First Act," is an unprecedented attack on the established collective bargaining process. Legislation is not negotiation! Teachers unions have already withdrawn extracurricular activities for students after the Ontario government imposed a new contract that freezes teachers’ wages for two years and bans them from walking off the job. Bill 115, known as the Putting Students First Act, passed third and final reading in the provincial legislature on September 11, 2012, with 82 MPPs voting in favour of it and 15 MPPs voting against it. Teachers unions are urging their members to protest the legislation by withdrawing their support for extra-curricular activities. Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, called the move an initial step in an “escalating” protest strategy. The union has also introduced “McGuinty Mondays” - days on which teachers are urged not to participate in any school-based meetings.

Ghana under former Presidents J J Rawlings and J. A. Kufour experienced similar tension between the governments and teachers in the country at the detriment of students and parents. Our presidents thought professional teachers could easily be replaced with any persons in the classroom when the teachers in Ghana during their reigns took to industrial actions! Teachers in Ghana had often been treated as if they do not matter by politicians. The recent political campaign promises by both President John Mahama of the ruling NDC party and the presidential candidate for the main opposition party, the NPP, Nana Akuffo Addo to build houses for teachers in Ghana when they are voted to power in the forthcoming elections must be taken with a pinch of salt! Their parties have been in power before if not now. What did they do for teachers in Ghana? Teaching has been described as the “most relevant profession we have” by the former Ontario premier William Davis. We therefore have to respect the teacher as such.

Undoubtedly, education is the biggest enterprise in any civilized society. Teachers play an important role in this enterprise. They make the medical doctors, the lawyers, the accountants, the engineers, the agriculturalists, the musicians, the pastors, the politicians, the nurses, the computer analysts and many other workers who contribute effectively to the building of a nation anywhere. This noble profession which propels education should not be seen at loggerheads with the main provider of education to the detriment of students and parents as being experienced in Premier McGuinty’s Ontario province in Canada and in NPP’s or NDC’s Ghana!

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