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Opinions of Friday, 6 October 2006

Columnist: Atuahene, Kwame

Our Educational Concerns, Their Urgency And My Expectation

The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total of the education and the character of our people.” Claiborne Pell

The United States of American is arguably the strongest nation in the world in most facets of life, and the quote from Claiborne provides an exact guiding principle for all serious nations like Ghana, if we indeed want to make any head way.

The government of the New Patriotic Party deserves some commendation for the management of the education, certainly the bedrock of many economies for the introduction of the Capitation Grant with the resultant explosion in enrolment figures. The school feeding programme and free transport for basic school pupils all deserves some mention in the quest to improve our stakes in the educational fold.

Infrastructural developments have been pronounced in the countries tertiary institutions and beneficiaries of the model schools expansion programme. The remarkable of all by my barometer is the policy that allows for the training of untrained teachers for diplomas and the upgrading of teacher-training colleges from certificate to diploma awarding institutions.

Our state of tabularasa can not be better addressed without educational institutions. Enrolment figures at the start of academic year have been exciting so is the decision to increase the Capitation Grant for this academic year. What have so far not been encouraging are the major known and unknown lapses that have the potency to erase the modicum gains achieved so far and the President’s resolve for a legacy built on an enhanced Human Resource Capital of our dear Ghana .

The seriousness attached to counseling units in our schools is near zero particularly, in the area of guiding our younger generation to identify their innate potentials and decision as to choice of programme of study at the Senior Secondary Schools (SSS) level. The unwritten rule placing owners of dazzling and exceptional results to courses of prestige has not in any way helped our development agenda. The practice of forcing Science for instance, on students because of their results without placing premium on their interest should be discouraged much the same as pushing weaker results to less fancied programmes.

Examination results are “earned” and “owned”. The consequences are potentially dreadful if an examination result turns out to be the main consideration for placing a student for a particular programme of study. Results slips have proven by latter events to be the end product of lots of distractions and machinations before and during the short but important life of the candidate. The future of these kids is most often gambled with.

Research and observation have proven that many university students lack such vital interaction before entry into senior secondary schools and universities. The results of the defect has been the acceptance of any programme which are mostly at variance with their interests and potentials resulting to low work out put and apathy to work by many such products in the Ghanaian world of work

Counseling units, an expected feature of our schools have become luxurious to maintain other than a necessity. The existing few or miniature units have gotten themselves busy justifying the investment in them with no work in sight. I expect of the Ministry of Manpower and Employment, Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, Heads of Secondary schools to duly recognize these units in their planning and implementations

At least these units should begin engaging final year students of Junior Secondary Schools or fresh students from the Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) on their interest and capabilities before placing them. An interest oriented placement is what we require and not an examination results inspired placement. It has proven to be a nation-wrecker.

Our approach to choosing students for Science and Visual Arts must change. With the computerized placement system in full swing, heads of institutions should do these kids some good before altering their destiny. Interest has proven the key to unlocking a somewhat difficult course of study and not the results slip. It can be deceptive.

The quandary of the teacher, who incidentally is the main architect in the educational set up, is another bother to think about , particularly the graduate teacher and the NAGRAT strike action and our attitude so far.

The teacher’s reward has for long been in heaven but if the recent resolve of the graduate teachers is any thing to bet on, then perhaps a revision of the old-age anachronism is in sight. The legality as to their capacity to congregate is not in doubt. What is perhaps a difficulty is the legality of their action as a non-recognizable labour grouping as per the Labour Act 651 2005

The unresponsiveness of the authorities to the concerns raised by these teachers as regards their conditions of service is not only unfortunate but also discriminatory particularly for the swiftness with which similar actions from health workers where addressed. The teachers appear peeved with low morale and if their concerns are continuously treated as extraneous and second rate, the students who are third parties would unduly suffer for the actions and inactions of the parties in the brawl.

The strike may be unlawful for lack of bargaining power on the part of the teachers. So may it make sense to demand of the teachers to respect the Ghana Universal Salary Structure? It is however worrying when we blow hot and cold providing different explanations and rules for workers-groups. How and why was the GUSS circumvented to the advantage of the Health and Allied Workers whiles teachers are required to stay to it? What type of brand are we building for the teaching profession? And what lessons are the kids picking from the ensuing struggle of their teachers?

Common sense frowns on discrimination and advocates for justice and equality

Is it not a verity that, the latest strike embarked upon by the health and allied workers was substantially rewarded though it was touted as procedurally illegal? If the moderate gain achieved is to be sustained for our corporate good, steps should be immediately taken to get the teachers to school and importantly to address the sorry brand of teaching.

Reports of graduate teachers settling on second bachelors degree in Nursing other than Masters Degrees and the mad rush for health related courses like Community Health Courses and the likes by SSS graduates for the lucrative pay cheques attached to them is enough to send the bleak signals of the teaching profession in Ghana. It is to be acknowledged that, though their salaries have been quite enhanced under the NPP government, it is far below the reasonable expectation per their training, qualification. and a comparative study of what others earn.

I do not want to be drawn into the argument of the disparity in salary and conditions of service on the basis of the most cited discrepancy between the earnings of a certificated Community Health Nurse and that of the Graduate teacher. The teaching profession deserves all the attention and investment if the dream of a solid future is to be achieved. The salary of less than two million cedis for a fresh graduate teacher is just unattractive as that of the Director-General of Ghana Education Service who we hear earns same or less than the driver in the health sector.

Medicine relates to our health and survival. Teaching relates to an educated populace which is vital if the surviving soul is to make any meaningful impact on his community and the nation at large. Arguably an uneducated citizen is a near liability to our development aspirations hence the need to bridge the gap between teachers and “others” in terms of remuneration.

My earnest appeal is that, the stipend of teachers should be revisited. What is good for the goose is as well befitting for the gander. They deserve some respect. They train the nation only to retire to misery and poverty. A dispassionate view of their circumstances will do Ghana a lot of good. The President’s call for a debate on wages and salaries should perhaps be started to put a stop to the discrepancies in our conditions of service. The Ghanaian teacher has suffered enough of the endurance. Ghana Endurance Service or Ghana Education Service must wake up.

The author (Kwame Atuahene) has been an educator for a decade and now a Broadcast Journalist. Could be reached via kkoduah2006@yahoo.com/ 028 7222 086

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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