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Opinions of Thursday, 28 June 2012

Columnist: Forson, Paa Kwesi

Open Letter to the Minister of Education

Dear Honourable Lee Ocran,
For years, we have heard sweet campaign promises of a Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE), Free SHS, the building of more classrooms, supplying of more textbooks, teaching and learning materials. All these amenities matter in quality education but not at the expense of the trained teacher transforming the lives of these students.
I write to remind your outfit of a particular callous ordeal a team of incompetent and heartless employees at some district, regional and national office of the Ghana Education Service have made a 42 year-old assistant headmaster of the Agormanya Methodist JHS go through for two and a half years now without salary. Despite his disability, the first degree holding graduate from the University of Cape Coast —Mr. Michael Godsway Patamia—has selflessly rendered his service to the Agormanya community from September 2009 till date. The father of four (expecting his fifth child) has virtually being reduced to a simple beggar living on charity from his aged mother, colleague teachers, church members, and some benevolent individuals.
Inasmuch Mr. Patimia has paid his dues by training many graduates to read, write, express themselves better with the English and pass their exam with distinction, it is unfortunate that a man of his age and rank could only afford a room but for the intervention of the Methodist Church. I’m seriously grieved that this man is poor not because he is jobless or that he is too lazy to farm or go fishing to support himself and his family; he is as poor as he is because some corrupt officials of the Ministry of Education and Controller and Accountant General’s Department have hidden behind the veil of bureaucracy in the Education system and the delays of the Single Spine Salary Structure to stall the processing of forms because people like Mr. Patimia can not grease their palms.
It is sad to know that the educational system is rewarding this disabled man who defied the odds to pursue a university degree with a two and half-year arrears. If is very unfair that while some teachers are going on strike for better conditions of service and salary increment, the government is rather aggravating the plight of this teacher and many others by withholding their salaries. How do we then expect teachers to produce good result in the traditional government school?
Mr. Minister, going to the any of the offices of the GES to follow up on the arrears is as fruitless as chasing the wind. There will you meet many arrogant busy-bodies of officials who will not only maltreat you but will completely waste your time and worsen your plight the more all because you want what is due you.
So how can teachers teach our future leaders with smiles when their hearts are filled with grief, contempt and regret for joining this career? How can they even concentrate in the class and gather momentum to teach with clarity when their minds wonder on what to eat, what to feed the families with or where to get funds to pay bills and the many debtors? I can at this stage speculate that the low morale and the massive ill treatment teachers are enduring is directly linked to the poor performance of public schools, despite the fact that all the teachers there are trained teachers. That is so interesting and too pathetic a situation to refuses to acknowledge.

Whenever you hear of officials sending salary adjustment letters to Controller and Accountant General, or teachers seeking transfer from a rural area to an urban area, or applying for one’s “Back Pay”, know that the cocoa season of GES Staff has come to harvest money from every teacher in that particular district (no exceptions) all in the name ‘easing the process’.
As for the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), I don’t even want to elaborate on the depth of their failure in seeking a better service conditions for all its members like all trade unions do.
Like the Animal Farm concept of “all animals are the same but some animals are more equal than others”, I think the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education service especially should be very ashamed of themselves for creating a system that subjects this fine gentleman and many others to public ridicule for no fault of theirs. For it does not make sense that officials of the GES in the offices get their arrears sorted out quicker while the voiceless teacher in Agormanya has to wait for close to three years to enjoy his own sweat. Heads should roll for once.
The poor man is not asking for a Judgement Dept for the breach of contract or any big time compensation; he is only asking to be paid the two and half year-salary due him.