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Opinions of Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Columnist: Derbie Raphael

The plight of the Ghanaian teacher

Today, as I sat under my usual tree to think and reflect on my life, a sudden feeling of pain took over me as teachers in this part of the world came to mind. Unlike other countries where teachers are well motivated and encouraged to give off their best, it is the other way round here. I suddenly became irritated with the unfair treatment being meted to teachers in Ghana. It is that feeling that propelled me to passionately lace these words together to carry home my take on the wanton maltreatment being meted out to teachers in the full glare of the leaders of the three teacher unions.

Before I deeply nose-dive into the genesis and pathogenesis of the above subject matter, let me say that I sincerely owe you an apology if my diction doesn't go well with you either as a leader or a politician. It is indeed a naked fact that teachers in Ghana are the majority as compared to any other profession. Meanwhile, teaching as some schools of thoughts stipulated, is not a complete profession yet. It is still an emerging profession base on some crucial factors. I will delve into that fully on another day. But today my focus is on how teachers are unfairly treated by their own leaders and the politicians in this country. It is not for nothing that myriad of people desired to be teachers as of then. Gone are the days teachers were highly respected and taken serious wherever they find themselves. Teachers were heavily relied on by parents to transform the lives of their stubborn and disrespectful children. Today as I speak, it is the other way round. Teachers are now seen as laughing stalks. Students disrespect their teachers on the grounds of human rights. Our own traditional ways of training our children has been thrown into the gutters. Good save Ghana.

Teacher-student population in Ghana some years ago, was very disheartening and that resulted in the institution of some privileges to encourage more people to go into this partial profession. Examples of such benefits are; trainee’s allowances, study leave with pay, transfer grants, car maintenance allowance etc. Of course there was no clear cut dichotomy between the teaching profession and nursing profession in terms of the benefits cited above. The only different was that unlike the nurses, teachers were easily given study leave with pay to further their education. This used to happen after a teacher has taught for two years in a deprived area and three years in urban areas. These are the rights and privileges of the Ghanaian teacher. Now i'm going to focus on study leave with pay which is teachers' greatest privilege in GES.

Here I would want to seek answers to these questions. Do these privileges still exist? How effective are they to teachers of recent times? Hmmmmm. Are there enough teachers in the classrooms? What is government doing to improving upon the standard and the numerical strength of teachers in the country? Do teachers have leaders? And if they have, are they concern about the welfare the teachers?

In fact, these were some of the questions that were running through my mind as I sat under the tree to think through and reflect on certain issues. Now let me put it on records that the rapidly falling standard of education in the country is largely caused by leadership crisis. Of course, I am not unaware that education is a collective responsibility and we all have a role to play.

Now let me journey you through the reason why I am blaming leadership for the falling standard of education in Ghana. Gone are the days when we had selfless, committed and dedicated leaders who were very patriotic to mother Ghana. Today, however, the definition of a leader seemed to have been changed by those occupying the positions now as leaders of the teacher unions that is GNAT, NAGRAT and CCT. In my own perspective, I realised that leadership has been redefined to mean caring for oneself with other people's resources at their detriment. It also means filling ones stomach at the expense of others. I guess you are not confused with these definitions? Going forward, the leaders of the three teacher unions have of late represent everything useless because of their parochial interest and personal convictions. They have allowed the politicians to play ostrich with them and they in turn are playing ostrich with the poor teachers. Teachers across the country are complaining bitterly each passing day about their unpaid arrears yet these stomach seeking leaders of the three teacher unions cannot fight for their subjects. How should they be brand either than useless? They are there with their mouths shut with Tom-brown. And if they mean to talk, they would be choked by the Tom-brown in their mouths. While they pretend to be working for their subjects, politicians play on their intelligence to compromise a lot of things that were not supposed to be compromised.

It is categorically stated as one of the rights to their conditions of service that each teacher has the right to further his/her education having served for two or three years depending on where the teacher is teaching. Teachers also have the privilege to be given study with pay for further studies. As we speak, all these rights and privileges are being taken away gradually by politicians yet the leaders of the teacher still cannot talk. Now before a teacher can further his education, he must teach for three/ four years as against two/three years some years ago. Leadership didn't see anything wrong with that. Currently, a circular is out indicating that a teacher must teach for seven/eight years before furthering his education. Leadership is still quite. The other issue is upgrading and salary adjustment. Upgrading and salary adjustment used to be done as soon as one completed another level of education. Teachers are told to wait till they are taught for seven years. Leadership still see nothing wrong with that. Are the teachers not being cheated? Are they not being maltreated? Yet people sit down and blame teachers for poor academic performance.

Are the leaders of these three teacher unions actually working for their subjects? All I know about them is deducting dues, giving loans, taking other deductions such as cancer fund, mutual fund, and teachers’ fund inter alia. Is that the core mandate of these teacher unions? What i know about leadership is to seek your follower’s welfare. Leaders are to serve but now it is the contrary. They are being served by their followers rather than serving their followers. I want to believe that these leaders do not have guilty conscience because having one will compel them to submit to the moral verdict of self-guilty. God save teachers! Now, how are we going to get teachers for our senior high schools if teachers would only be given the chance to further their education after teaching seven/eight years? Has government forgotten that there are still some subject areas without teachers? Even most of the teachers in our senior high schools are not qualified to teach the subjects they are teaching there. If you challenge me, go to some of the senior high schools and see how some teachers fumble with their subjects. What are you talking of? We have people from UDS teaching English, Mathematics, Science including other subjects that they didn't learn in the school yet they are handling those subjects in the senior high schools all because there are no qualified teachers to handle those courses yet you are implementing this weird policy.

Politicians in this part of the world are so much enthused with amassing wealth for their immediate family and generation yet unborn. Very interesting! No wonder Trump referred to them as 'shitholes'. Is it logic for someone to be craving relentlessly for wealth when he cannot even give birth? I am not surprise at all, why we have so many unhappy millionaires in this country. Donald Trump was very frank when he hit the nail direct on the head. It was only a wakeup call to African leaders to undo their wicked and barbaric ways of acquiring wealth. Why would you want to build a mansion for your child who is yet to borne? How sure are you that the child will grow up to like that house? Of course I'm not naive about planning or saving for the future but that should be done in a genuine manner. We must not rob or dupe others in order to save for our children or families yet to born. That is barbaric and uncultured.

Let me repeat what I said earlier, our leaders are heavily to be blamed for the speedily falling standard of education cum the retarded development of this country. It is abundantly clear that politicians deliberately create loopholes in the systems to siphon the tax payer’s money for their personal aggrandizement. This is so glaring for everyone to see. As they pretend to show concern on our children's education, how many of the politicians have their wards in government schools? No wonder it bothers them just little to provide the necessary equipment needed to facilitate effective teaching and learning in the government schools. Also, the politicians pretentiously assume the posture of overly caring for our health, may I know again how many of them attend or send their sick children to hospitals in Ghana? Come on! It is about time ordinary Ghanaians started uniting to press home our legitimate rights in full. Why wouldn't I applaud Trump's use of 'shitholes' on us? The growing appetite for virtually everything of foreign has qualified us to be seen as 'shitholes'. Now let's consider this before condemning Trump. When late Pro. Mills was sick any our hospitals was not sufficiently equipped to treat him. President Nana goes to America to seek quality health care. When Samira Bawumia was due to give birth, she traveled to America to be delivered. Bawumia is currently in UK seeking quality health care delivery. So what makes you think Trump insulted us? He was only being truthful with us. Now do you think that if their leaders were like you (Ghanaian leaders) who are self-centered, they would have had quality hospitals there for you to seek treatment? If they were like you, do you think they would have built those magnificent schools for you to send your children there? Trump's insult is not for all of us but our leaders who are sold out to everything foreign. Of course there is no moral equivalence between what our leaders do promise and what they do. It is absolutely preposterous. We need to rethink as a people if not we will continue to be in this quagmire of abject poverty and premature death. We have a sacrosanct responsibility to collectively and unison, transform this country but this cannot be done without quality education. I am of the view that when one live is transformed by education, it has the propensity to affect generations. This can be achieved if our leaders in general, desist from endlessly parading themselves and parroting irrelevances aimed at cajoling their subjects or followers to believing in to them..

Godly speaking, there is something Ghanaians don't critical look at which is affecting only we the ordinary people. Our leaders are always exonerated in anything disastrous, be it poor academic performance or poor health delivery. Usually we are the people who suffer the most hence the need to think through and come out with a common agenda. It is in this spirit that I think Ghanaians would have for once undo political connotations from issues concerning education and health so that we the ordinary citizens who suffer enormously in these areas, will invariably and unanimously speak with one voice against every government that wants to mess up our future as far as our education and health are concerned. There is a saying that when spider webs unite, they tie up a lion. So I believe strongly that we can achieve this as a people if indeed we are interested in our welfare.

In conclusion, it is just commonsensical and proper that our leaders sincerely consider the interest of the larger population over their personal interest. I want to call on ordinary Ghanaians to team up and let us stop the politicians from playing on our intelligence more especially when it comes to our education and health systems. I am also making a clarion call on GNAT, NAGRAT and CCT to step up their fight against government initiatives that are inimical to the progress of teachers. Our leaders must ensure that quality education is given to the citizens. I am sure if this is done, government will stop spending money on sanitation, malaria, etc because quality education is the panacea to all the problems we are facing as a country.