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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Columnist: Pacas, Idris

Scrap off book and research allowances

The govt should steadfastly hold on to its decision to cancel the book and research allowances being doled out to only some teachers. I sympathize with these teachers for the sudden loss of income, but so will it most likely be. The allowances have been institutionalized and these recipient teachers have become used to ‘enjoying’ them; cancelling them abruptly will destabilize these teachers. Thus, I appeal to the govt to phase out the allowances progressively and to replace them with no other funds.

Digressing a bit, I draw your attention to how disgruntled we (teachers) are. We have at least five different associations namely GNAT, CCT, Nagrat, Potag and Utag fighting against one govt for ‘identical’ objectives. Driven merely by ego, teachers at the universities and polytechnics have branded themselves as ‘lecturers’ but refused to replace the ‘T’ in ‘Utag’ and ‘Potag’ with ‘L’. Accordingly, I refer to them as lecturers whilst using ‘teachers’ for members of GNAT, CCT and Nagrat throughout this write-up. Worth noting is that the same basic academic and professional qualification runs through all these associations (more on this issue in the next write-up).

What makes the recent teacher strikes surprising is that both Potag and Utag are protesting against the proposed cancellation and/or delayed payment of book and research allowances for the 2013/14 academic year. Why couldn’t these two associations agree and stage the strike together? This internal disunity and self-disrespect is the very reason why successive governments have never considered teachers important. Remember the then President Kufuor’s remarks to Nagrat.

Returning to the substantive issue—why govt must immediately stop paying book and research allowances—we start from the lecturers’ side of the story. Throughout their debate to retain the allowances, our lecturers never justified why they must continue to ‘enjoy’ the monies. In the press statement declaring their indefinite strike (Ghanaweb 24/07/2014), Utag stated five reasons why the allowances should never be cancelled. And the first and presumably the strongest from them is as follows: ‘That since the Book and Research Allowances are tied to the University Lecturer’s condition of service, and was introduced as a result of a collective decision taken by both Government and UTAG, its intended abolition cannot be a unilateral decision as such an action would have implications for the overall conditions of service of the university lecturer’.

Substantiating the above claim further, Utag stated that Section 9.13 of the Unified Conditions of Service for Public Universities in Ghana mentioned the allowances as part of its conditions of service. Dear Readers, to appreciate why the allowances must be cancelled now and not later, we first attempt to define what allowances are. Allowances are monies given for some work done or to be done. If some allowances are therefore part of your terms of employment or profession and the employer detects that the said work for which you are given the allowances is not being done, the employer can cancel the allowances.

Let’s start with book allowances. Logically, book allowances are monies paid to lecturers to enable them research and to develop or write books. Absolutely nothing less than this. Dear Reader, ask yourself the number of books written by an average Ghanaian lecturer. The word is book/textbook, and not handout or pamphlet. Just visit the Balme Library at the University of Ghana (UG) and check the author’s catalogue to see the books written by our lecturers. Nearly none! The situation is no different in the libraries at all the other universities and the polytechnics nationwide. Potag and Utag, where are the books for which you deserve allowances?

Dear Reader, which of you did your undergraduate or graduate project under a Ghanaian supervisor and could cite that lecturer’s own works more than twice in your thesis and dissertation? Because of their failure (sorry inability) to write books, they (the lecturers) are shamelessly proud to come to lecture halls to give extremely tall list of reference books written by lecturers outside Ghana. Our markets are flooded with books authored by their counterparts from Nigeria. While they (the Utag and Potag) have been deceiving themselves about the superiority of Ghanaian English and education, we are yet to get a writer who may attempt to follow the footsteps of the Wole Soyinkas. Potag and Utag, where are the books for which you deserve allowances?

The misconception about book allowances is worth mentioning here. Book allowances are never paid because the lecturers must always be consulting books written by others to enable them lecture. Instead, these allowances are paid because the lecturers must consult other worker’s books partly to lecture but more importantly to write their own books that really meet our Ghanaian situation along with the stipulated professional lines. Potag and Utag, where are the books for which you deserve allowances?

If book allowances were paid merely because the lecturers are always reading books to enable them lecture, then teachers (at JHS and SHS) rather deserve them. Why? Can’t you remember the 1912 lecture notes used by more than 50 % of our lecturers? Thanks to carbon dating, we can precisely estimate the ages of some of these tattered lecture notes. Some of the lecturers will brashly photocopy (not plagiarise) entire chapters of books written by their allowance-deserving counterparts in other countries and just come and deposit them on students. True or false?

Those who take the initiative to photocopy books of others are even creative; what about those who will just give you the references and nothing else? Even the ‘few hardworking’ lecturers who are able to compile their lecture notes into HANDOUTS adopt a must-buy approach to sell them. They command course representatives to write down the names and IDs of all the students who buy such handouts. Again, true or false? Potag and Utag, where are the books for which you deserve allowances?

Contrast the above lecturing strategies with those of teachers. Teachers must prepare termly scheme of work. And for teachers at primary and JHS, they write weekly lesson notes. In contrast to lecturers being able to go to lecture halls unprepared (you know them), or refusing to go there at all, teachers must carry their lesson notebooks to the class. While many lecturers are using their 1900 lecture notes, teachers cannot do that because their syllabuses are continuously being replaced—the daily changing of our syllabuses/educational systems truly reflecting the inability of these lecturers to direct Ghana’s education. Readers will remember that some few years ago, administrators at the tertiary levels were also demanding book allowances. Why? They see the lecturers do no book work whilst being continuously paid book allowances. The question remains ‘Where are the books for which allowances must be paid?’

Concerning the research allowances, we ask the same question: ‘Where are the research works?’ Just move to UG, you will notice that one professor may have over 100 publications to his/her credit. Then read all such articles and find out which of them was devoted to solving the numerous problems in Ghana. Whereas Kwame Nkrumah established KNUST to introduce innovative ways of doing things in the Ghanaian way, the university has now outcompeted UG in terms of the humanities. KNUST has not even been able to introduce a ‘fufu-pounding machine’ to make living in storey buildings a reality for the average Asante. Ghanaian lecturers, research is all about solving problems in one’s country.

A pivotal research typifying the kind of cut and paste or do-as-we-tell-you research work done by our lecturers is the one undertaken by a team of ‘experts’ led by Prof. S. K.Oppong from the University for Development Studies (UDS). The other experts are W. J. Asante, Mr. D. Tom-Dery and Mr. B. N. Baatuuwie. (Focus on the names of the researchers/lecturers and not on the university.) At the time that common sense informed every Ghanaian including the blind and the deaf that SADA planted its seedlings dead, this Prof Sarpong-led team of ‘researchers’ mysteriously discovered 85 % of the seedlings surviving. Potag and Utag, are these the research works for which you must be paid allowances? Come again, please.

Dear Reader, our lecturers are simply failing to make a case for the monies: they have never shown the books they authored and the research they did, are doing or will be doing. Basing the argument on only terms of employment, the lecturers are becoming career-liars like the average Ghanaian politician. And their failure to attach professionalism to their work will soon make us mistrust them just as we have done to politicians.

Notwithstanding, I appeal to the govt to pay our lecturers the allowances for 2013/14 academic year as promised, but those of 2014/15 and beyond should be cancelled permanently. The proposed National Research Fund will also be plagued by the same problem. Let lecturers who work make their case and receive funding.

Long live practising teachers! Long live Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana! Idris Pacas: 0209 1015 33 &