You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2015 04 27Article 356026

Opinions of Monday, 27 April 2015

Columnist: Mensah, Opanin Kwabena

Teacher trainees and Ablakwa

It is a fact of life that if an individual is made to lose his/her money in any other way he/she will resort to any means possible to get it back. The behavior of teacher-trainees at the Wesley College (Wesco) in Kumasi towards Honorable Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa (Ablakwa), Deputy Minister of Education, should be seen in this way.

Ghana media reported on Wednesday (4/15/15) that a planned program dubbed Campus Connect, organized by the Ministry of Education to bring governance to the door step of students was boycotted by college of education students selected from various institutions in the Ashanti region. According to the students they had petitioned the Minister with regards to their concerns on several occasions but the Ministry had turned a deaf ear and that if the Minister was not ready to listen to them they also saw no need to sit at the program to listen to him. The center-piece of the students’ concern is the cancellation of teacher trainees’ allowances in Ghana.

The reaction of the students is embedded in history. A brief history of the institution of allowance (Alawa) for students in training colleges (now known as colleges of education) will throw some light on the whole issue. President Nkrumah (Nkrumah) in his bid to get more teachers to handle his fee-free education introduced both the 40-Day Emergency training of teachers (Pupil Teachers) and two-year training colleges (certificate B teachers).

Everyone admitted into any of these colleges was presumed to be on a salary equivalent to that of a pupil teacher. This was a major source of funding for the colleges. The colleges deducted their expenses from each pupil teacher’s (student) salary and the remainder given back to the student on monthly basis. This turned out to be known as allowance (Alawa). Nkrumah enticed students into these colleges with free tuition, boarding and lodging in addition to Alawa.

These offers were too good to be ignored. Graduates of these programs taught mainly in the villages. In the early sixties, the four-year certificate A was introduced with emphasis on both academic and professional training. As a result of the success and popularity of the program, Nkrumah opened additional teacher training colleges (known at the time as mushroom colleges) in 1965 to supplement the existing ones. The graduates would not come out before he was overthrown in a military coup de tat and most of those colleges were turned into secondary schools. More “Agyaaku mmas” took advantage of the Alawa to get teacher education. This explains why Nkrumah’s fee free education program was very successful.

The military government which succeeded Nkrumah, the National Liberation Council (NLC) made things worse for teacher-trainees. General Afrifa, then Head of State, went on record that “it would be unwise to pay allowance to students in teacher training colleges.” His government went ahead at the end of the 1966/1967 academic year to take away the Alawa for students in training colleges. The students reacted angrily.

During the 1967/68 academic year almost all training colleges in the country embarked upon some form of demonstrations against the military government demanding the restoration of their Alawa. Communication was not as improved as today so the students could not coordinate their activities. Some students suffered various degrees of injuries emanating from the brutalities meted out to them by the soldiers. The government did not back down. Ironically, it took another military government, the Provincial National Defense Council, (PNDC) to restore the Alawa

It is very interesting to note that the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) government, an off-shoot of the PNDC, had rather again cancelled the Alawa for the students. As expected the students have reacted. In 2012 presidential candidate John Mahama (who then doubled as the interim President of Ghana) had to find a way to avoid students of Akrokeri College of Education (Akrokeri). The students had skipped classes with the sole purpose of confronting him for the restoration of their Alawa. Akrokeri was in the midst of the 1967/68 demonstrations – probably the first institution to embark on the series of demonstrations that rocked the country and not surprisingly the first in the second round of affairs. They were also mentioned among the five colleges in Ashanti which walked out on Ablakwa.

It could be seen from the preceding that even with a barrel of gun pointed at their heads, students in training colleges defied all odds to demand the restoration of their Alawa. Therefore five colleges walking on a civilian government which had ceased paying their Alawa was just a normal “training college students ‘exercise that would be carried on from time to time”.

It is impliedly worthy of note that Ablakwa was specifically targeted by the students because of his position as the Deputy-Minister of Education responsible for implementing the policy for the cancellation of the Alawa. He was not singled out because he is Ewe, a member of NDC or any other reason.

From what had been said, it is being argued that that particular Ghanaian who chose to make the unfortunate behavior of the students at Wesco an NDC/NPP, Kumasi versus Ho or Asante-Ewe affair by organizing some hoodlums purposely to attach an innocent man in Ho should bow his/her head down in shame. It is the mark of a wiseman to always verify issues before taking any action. It is only animals which act on instincts.