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Opinions of Sunday, 3 April 2011

Columnist: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley

Divided We Fall, United We Stand!

Teachers in Ghana Need a United Front in their Struggles for Better Conditions! By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview MS, Toronto-Canada

The ongoing struggle by teachers in Ghana for better pay and better working conditions took an interesting last week when some of the teachers were reported to have formed a coalition to demand that the leaders of the two teachers’ unions/federations in the country step down. (It was quite reminiscent of the current uprising in the Arab world!)

It was reported that, “hundreds of teachers led by a teachers’ splinter group, the Coalition of Concerned Teachers, have demonstrated on the streets of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region to press home their demands for the resignation of NAGRAT and GNAT executives.

“The group, which started in the Ashanti Region in the wake of recent agitations by teachers over discrepancies in their salaries, has rejected a 15 percent allowance offered striking teachers by the government last two weeks and accepted by the executives of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT)and Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT).

“The coalition says the 15 percent teacher retention premium government offered to end an earlier strike by teachers is woefully inadequate and cannot provide teachers with any significant improvement in their standard of living.

‘They have accused their leaders of “gross incompetence" in negotiating for better conditions of service for its members in respect of the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy’, concludes the report.

However, the leaders of GNAT and NAGRAT are also reported to ‘have called the bluff of the Coalition, saying they have no right to call for their resignation.’ The leadership instead have urged the group to use legal means to get their concerns addressed. Also, the Volta Regional Executive of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) this week, cautioned its members in the region to be wary of “a group calling itself coalition of concerned teachers”.

What is really happening to the front of teachers in Ghana as they struggle with the NDC led government to better their conditions as President Mills’ Better Ghana agenda? They should bear in mind that, DIVIDED THEY WILL FALL THROUGH THEIR STRUGGLE !

GNAT & NAGRAT: There are now two professional associations of teachers in Ghana which are recognized by the government. First is the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT). The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) is a service organization that is concerned with ensuring better conditions of service for its members who are drawn from pre-tertiary levels of the educational system, that is from public and private primary, junior and senior secondary schools, teacher training colleges, technical institutes and offices of educational administration units).

I quite remember in the 70s when I started teaching in Ghana, GNAT was a powerful organisation of teachers which enjoyed excellent leadership under professional administrators like Mr. T. A. Bediako who later became the leader of the All African Teachers Federation. Officers of GNAT were sent abroad, including Canada for professional training. The negotiating abilities of GNAT then could be described as good and many teachers looked up to the body for professional solutions to problems associated with their work! Has GNAT now become a political tool for the government of the day?

Perhaps, the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) was formed out of dissatisfaction with GNAT’s dealings on issues concerning graduate teachers in Ghana. Cracks in the minds of the leaderships of the two professional teachers’ bodies in the country have come to the fore in the recent struggles of teachers in Ghana for better conditions. For example, reports have it that, “plans of the group (coalition of concern teachers) to merge NAGRAT and the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) into one Union was impossible because NAGRAT’s Constitution did not support that. “NAGRAT belongs to NAGRAT members and under no circumstance should NAGRAT members sit down for any GNAT member to determine the modus operandi of NAGRAT”, the statement said. Though GNAT and NAGRAT have different constitutions that strengthen their positions to negotiate effectively for their members independent of the other body, they can learn from the cooperation that the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) in Canada enjoy from each other in their efforts to improve conditions for their members.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is the professional and protective organization representing over 76,000 teachers, occasional teachers, and education workers employed in the public elementary schools of Ontario. All public elementary teachers in Ontario are an active member of ETFO provincially, and also a member of one of its 68 locals across the province Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) was founded in 1919. It has 50000 members across Ontario. They include public high school teachers, occasional teachers, teaching assistants, and other educational specialists working in Ontario’s High Schools.


The war drums among our teachers in Ghana should not be against their united front but rather against their ‘common enemy’- an unfair and insensitive government! I appeal to the Coalition of Concern Teachers to be wary of political elements who may want to use them against their own labour unions in times of their struggles for better conditions. All must remember: DIVIDED WE FALL, UNITED WE STAND; and that, A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF CANNOT STAND. A word to the wise is enough!