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General News of Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Source: GNA

Minister unhappy about losing teacher-pupil contact hours

Ho, July 30, GNA - Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, on Tuesday expressed reservations about the practice of closing down schools to enable teachers to converge at designated points for Ghana Education Service (GES) personnel to count them.

He was speaking at a meeting with heads of departments and agencies under the Ministry in the Volta Region.

Mr Baah-Wiredu said he thought those taking stock must rather move to the schools to do the counting so that there would be little loss of pupil-teacher contact hours. Mr Baah-Wiredu said his interaction with the teachers, the third in the series countrywide, was to forge co-operation among the 19 agencies under the Ministry.

The Minister said the proposed four six-unit classrooms for each district would be implemented and announced that funds would be released soon for work to start on the model schools.

He said there was the need to do effective supervision in schools, citing lateness as one drawback.

The Minister said while travelling from his constituency to Accra on Tuesday, he stopped over at a school and found out that not a single teacher was at post as at 0800 hours.

On standards he expressed regret about the inability of some junior secondary school graduates to write simple words and called for a return of the mental drills and dictation that were part of the school system in the past.

Mr Baah-Wiredu criticised the haphazard manner in which requests for funding for projects under the GETFund were being done. "Henceforth, requests should be made through the District Heads of Education, the Assembly and the Regional Office to be forwarded to Accra."

On encroachment on school lands, Mr Baah-Wiredu said it was expected that school lands would be properly secured with title deeds.

He said the government was focussed on improving education in the country and even before the report of the Education Review Committee was fully evaluated the government was acting on some of the recommendations to facilitate the strategic plan for education.

Mr Baah-Wiredu said the Ministry had struck a deal with the World Bank to fund a programme to upgrade skills of all staff in the management level including Head Teachers. The Minister said government recognised the efforts of the 30,000 Pupil Teachers in the system, some of whom, have taught for over 20 years and promised that some would be absorbed after undergoing training. Concerns of participants in an open forum were on the disillusionment of teachers because of the perceived notion that the SSNIT Pension Scheme was less likely to cater for their days in retirement than the Cap 30.

Other concerns included bribery in the processing of documents for pensions and salaries at the office of the Controller and Accountant General's Department (CAGD), accommodation for offices of the GES and insufficient textbooks in some schools.

The rest were the need for the payment of responsibility allowances for certain categories of GES staff and the late release of grants. Mr Baah-Wiredu promised to address their concerns and hinted that the Ministry was considering a bank to be solely responsible for financing education.

He said the Ministry was also considering procuring 4-wheel drive vehicles for districts in difficult terrains to ensure effective supervision.

On issues of retirement he said all stakeholders should brainstorm to find a workable scheme to shore up workers in their old age. Miss Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State for Tertiary Education, said it would be worthwhile to arrest the falling standards in the primary and junior secondary schools in the Volta Region before thinking of establishing a University there.

She described results in some schools as "abysmal" and wondered what had become of the so-called ''haven of education''.

Miss Ohene said the government would give support to address the problem but urged all stakeholders in education in the Region to do a little more to improve the situation.