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Opinions of Friday, 2 October 2015

Columnist: Vance Azu

Our teachers deserve better

Opinion Opinion

On Monday, October 5, 2015, hardworking teachers across the country will be recognised for their efforts and contribution towards the development of this country at the 21st edition of the National Best Teacher Awards in Tamale.

Four hundred and twelve teachers will be honoured at the national level, while 360 and 3,312 teachers will be honoured at the regional and district levels respectively. The theme of the celebration is: “Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies.”

The new addition to this year’s awards is the recognition of schools under the National Best Schools Awards Scheme, which aims at motivating teachers to work as a team in education delivery.

Arguably, the contribution of teachers all over the world, especially in the shaping and socialisation of schoolchildren who later in life constitute the huge human resource base of any country is unsurpassable.

Therefore, it was with gladdened hearts that teachers and Ghanaians in general, welcomed the institutionalisation of the National Best Teacher Awards Scheme in 1994, by the first National Democratic Congress (NDC) adminstration, led by former President, Jerry John Rawlings.

Since its inception, several teachers across the country— from the rural to urban and quasi-urban communities have won the ultimate prize of Overall Best Teacher.

Interestingly, the commitment and dedication of teachers all over the country soared when the grand prize was enhanced from a paltry sum of money to the construction of a three-bedroom house at any location of the winner’s choice.

In fact, teachers are one of the privileged professional groups in the country, besides our farmers and fishermen, who are recognised at such high-profile national events to celebrate their achievements.

We in the journalism profession always use these two groups as reference point and engage our leaders to work harder to solicit for sponsorships that can get the hardworking journalists prizes such as houses and cars.

However, I am a little disappointed that the repackaged awards will this time deny the Overall Best Teacher the opportunity of getting a house as the ultimate prize. First and second runners-up who received vehicles previously will also miss out.

The argument being advanced by the Ministry of Education is that they do not see the essence of only one teacher being given a house when there are many other hard working teachers around.

My disappointment is deepening because this unpleasant news is happening under the leadership of a professional teacher, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman, who rose through the ranks to attain the status of a Vice Chancellor.

Some teachers, as well as teacher trainees have constantly alleged that under the watch of the minister, their fortunes continue to dwindle. They had expected her to do more for them and better their lot, but their lot is worsening by the day.

Already, some teachers and potential award winners have started grumbling over this new arrangement which they claim is demotivating.

It is my conviction that if the call by the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of Pre-tertiary Education, Mr Alex Kyeremeh, during the launch of the awards on “teachers to rise up to the task by working even harder to justify the institution of the award scheme and other interventions by the government to enhance performance”, is anything to go by, then something must be done immediately between now and the D-day to rekindle the confidence and enthusiasm that this award scheme generates.

The idea of presenting citations and certificates to hardworking and deserving teachers is not the best. Our teachers deserve better.