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Opinions of Friday, 22 January 2016

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

GES in 2015: recap of major activities, events and mishaps

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

The Ghana Education Service (GES) has its own mission, vision and mandate. It works to ensure that children of school-age enter school to gain quality formal education and training for better life. It strives to create the environment for good education to happen.

GES manages pre-tertiary schools and controls recruitment, postings, transfers, promotions, training and development, study leave with and without pay, conditions of service and code of discipline of staff as well. It collates and analyses educational data for sound decision making and review of policies and programmes.

Effective inspection, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of instructional materials, processes and performance remains a core mandate of the Service. Directors, supervisors, teachers and stakeholders work to promote GES and to improve educational standards.

The Divisions, Units, regional and district directorates of GES did well. Regional public relations and statistics officers attended a 2-day conference at the Ghana Education Staff Development Institute in Saltpond recently. Participants met to prepare and consolidate their regions’ performance reports for 2015. Mr. Vincent Brew, Director of the Institute, opened the conference. Mr. Bernard Foster Ntim, supported by Madam Rose Akakpovi, Mr. Issah Baffoe and my good self from the National Office of GES, did the facilitation. The reports were generally detail and attractive; everybody did their best.

This article lacks the capacity to give a blow-by-blow account of every activity of GES for last year. It begs to highlight just a few of them. Mr. Jacob Aaworb-Nang Maabobr Kor became acting Director-General last February (and turned substantive director-general somewhere in August) with Mrs. Elizabeth De-Souza (for Quality and Access) and Dr. Stephen Adu (Management Services) as his acting deputies.

GES wished it did not engage in legal tussles with its staff but staff should also try to be honest and truthful. It is unfair and criminal for anyone to attempt to cheat nature and this system of ours. I do not believe that Mrs. Cynthia Storph-Tagoe, Head of the Legal Unit of GES, just takes delight in facing the courts to defend her Service in its decision to compel staff to proceed on compulsory retirement. The illegal change of dates of birth must stop.

There had been series of advocacy activities on the Complementary Basic Education (CBE) programme. Dr. Leslie Casely-Hayford, principal development consultant of Associates for Change (NGO), is a force to reckon with in matters of CBE. She acts as a national consultant and facilitator for CBE. CBE provides out-of-school children (between 8 and 14 years) in poor rural and hard-to-reach communities with literacy, numeracy and life skills for them to access primary education. It operates in Northern Region, Upper East and West regions, and parts of Brong Ahafo Region. GES also supports it to perform well.

The Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP) was launched and it has started its work. It seeks to improve quality and access to secondary education through the expansion and/or upgrading of infrastructure in some selected deprived senior high schools and provision of educational support and scholarships to needy students. Information and Communication Technology is a major feature of the SEIP programme.

“National Best Teacher Awards” was changed to “National Best Teacher and School Awards” and Tamale hosted last year’s celebration. The theme was, “Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies”. Schools, teachers and foreign partners, who distinguished themselves in various categories of service, were awarded. Assessment of teachers was largely based on quantity of output, quality of output, timeliness of output, presence at work, cooperativeness and creativity in teaching, research and community service. The Vice-President of the Republic was the guest of honour and education directors were also there.

The Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) did its work. It could not have passed without challenges. Some parents and guardians wanted their wards to be placed in certain schools at all costs. This created messy scenes in schools like Wesley Girls Senior High School and Mfantsipim Senior High School. Service authorities, including the Director General visited those schools and calm was restored. Placement happened in batches and parents that lost the waiting patience to have their wards placed did register some agitations. Meanwhile, the Inkoom-led Secondary Education Division of GES, under whose mandate the CSSPS operates, has promised to review and enhance the performance of the System this year.

Fake teachers were detected to have penetrated the payroll and established themselves in it as though they were staff of the Service. GES started its own cleansing exercise and later brought on-board the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI). They have been helping to validate all entry certificates and qualifications of staff and it is proving to be effective. Close to 200 fake persons have so far been exposed. Reports say some of them have already run into hiding but GES hopes to smoke them out and start prosecuting them once its checks are complete.

Some school heads charged and collected unapproved school fees. Parents and the public incessantly alerted GES and a Task Force was formed to investigate the allegations. Management threw countless caution notices to all school heads but some of them would not budge. As we speak, Mr. John Kwamina Ankomah Simpson, Headmaster of Mfantsipim Senior High School, has been suspended. Listen to the tone of Director General Kor’s letter to Mr Simpson, “ As a result of the collection of illegal fees from students of Mfantsipim School, you are directed to immediately step aside from responsibilities as the Headmaster of the school pending further investigations into the illegal collection”.

The Director General told us recently, “My PROs, let the schools and the public know that Management’s action against collection of illegal fees shall continue term by term and year by year until all heads are co-operating and complying”. Meanwhile, investigations into alleged charging of illegal fees by some heads of basic and senior high schools are also ready and Management hopes to act on them soon. In fact, eyes red!

Management met with the teacher unions, including the Ghana National Association of Teachers, National Association of Graduate Teachers and Coalition of Concerned Teachers-Ghana. It gave them a draft Revised Code of Professional Conduct for study and review.

GES would always engage the public and stakeholders for improved service delivery and thanks to all of us for the support. Let’s work for Ghana and the Ghanaian child always!

The writer is an educationist and a public relations officer at the Headquarters of the Ghana Education Service.