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General News of Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Source: The Republic

Teachers Trainee Allowance causes 40,000 teacher shortages

Statistics from the Ministry of Education indicates that allowances to students in Colleges of Education (CoEs) are responsible for a shortage of approximately 40, 000 trained teachers in the country.

This statistics is contrary to popular perception that government’s giving allowances of teacher trainees encourages more enrolments and is also coming on heels of heated public debate over government’s decision to scrap allowances to students of CoEs.

Local research organization- the National Education Research Front (NERF) noted in a statement issued this week, that with the reintroduction of the allowances in the 1980s, the colleges of education were forced to adopt a Quota System that ensured that CoEs do not exceed a specific number of students they can admit as they were only allowed to give admissions in line with budgets of successive Governments.

Essentially, the allowances and the quota system, therefore, led to a constant decline in admissions and consequently led to the 38 CoEs in the country operating below 40% of their capacity.

“ In other words, the CoEs were on the verge of extinction with over 60% vacancies going to waste year after year as we shut the door to thousands of qualified applicants meanwhile the trained teacher deficit was also widening affecting education standards,” NERF stated in their statement available with the Republic Newspaper.

“So the irony is that whereas we said we were introducing the allowances to enable us train more teachers, in reality, the allowances had rather become counterproductive to our national objective.”

The John Dramani Mahama’s administration had been at the brunt of a sustained criticism for deciding to scrap the monthly allowances to teacher trainees and replace it with a Student Loan Trust Fund where students can apply for a repayable loan for their upkeep during the course of their studies.

The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and its sponsored pressure groups are at the forefront of agitations for government to reverse the decision to discontinue the payment of the trainee teachers’ allowance.

The criticisms have instigated the students against government with the leadership of the Teacher Trainees’ Association of Ghana (TTAG) saying they will not return to school when the Colleges of Education re-open on Monday the 18th of May, 2015 because their allowances have not been restored.

Their Principals have however warned that the re-opening of the CoEs across the country goes ahead as scheduled and that trainees who fail to show up will be dismissed, adding that Tertiary Education is a personal choice made by adults and it is not compulsory as it pertains at the basic level. The Principals further warned striking students that any vacancies they leave would swiftly be filled with fresh admissions.

Meanwhile, new statistics available at the Ministry of Education indicates that since the recent introduction of the Students’ Loan Trust Fund in 2014, over 4,100 Teacher Trainees have since applied to the Student Loan Trust Fund and are receiving loans ranging from GHS 600 to GHS 1,300.

When the allowances were replaced with student loans, enrolment in all the 38 public CoEs immediately shot up by 63.8%, this paper can confirm.

As part of incentives for teachers trainees in all 38 public CoEs, they continue to be fed thrice a day at an annual cost of GHS 32 million to Government. These goodies also come with a guaranteed automatic recruitment into the teaching profession upon completion of their training.

GHAYODEC, a local civil society group issued a statement on Monday urging the Mahama administration to “remain resolute and steadfast” on its policy of reviewing the teacher trainee allowances as a way of expanding access to teacher education in Ghana.

The Mahama administration has also passed the Colleges of Education Act- Act 847- to make CoEs full-fledged Tertiary institutions.

“ We watch, in amazement , as the current leadership of TTAG dance around critical policies all in an attempt ( by TTAG leadership) to push through a parochial interest to the detriment of the State,” stated Godwin Bobobee, the President of GHAYODEC in the statement released on Monday.

“ We will like to urge our future intellectuals in the noble teaching profession to ponder over the fact that, there exist 30,000 teaching vacancies in various hamlets across the country and this requires the doubling of efforts through policies such as this to bridge the huge pupil-professional teacher ratio,” the statement read.