Accra, July 31, GNA - The high number of teachers permitted to go on study leave has been identified as the most serious factor leading to the vacancies in the classrooms, a study conducted by the Unilever Teacher Education Unit of the University of Cape Coast has revealed. The study released in Accra on Thursday said there is shortage of 40,000 trained teachers in the country and this may be on the lower side making the services of untrained teachers very important. Such teachers are to be phased out under the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) programme.
Currently, there are 24,000 untrained teachers and 84,963 trained teachers and the study said this number is not sufficient. The study conducted this year said the critical problem facing basic education in the country was inadequate trained teachers for instruction in the schools.
Dr Kofi Bassah Quansah, Chair of the University's Teacher Education, who conducted the study, said the vast vacancies created have affected the quality of teaching in both primary and junior secondary schools.
The study was to enable the University to raise critical issues concerning the present state of demand and supply of teachers. Dr Bassah Quansah said over the seven-year period, from 1997 to 2003, the number of teachers that were approved for study leaves averaged 94.4 per cent of the new teachers graduating from the training teacher colleges each year.
It is estimated that on the average, 6,283 new teachers graduated from the nation's training colleges while an average of 5,904 teachers went on study leave within the same period each year.
"This year alone, 4,676 teachers graduated from the training colleges and records at the Ghana Education Service indicate that 5,000 teachers have listed to go on study leave. This means that there would be no addition to the existing pool of teachers," Dr Bassah Quansah said.
Dr Bassah Quansah explained that, even though, teachers who went on study leave brought back improved knowledge to enrich the quality of teaching and learning in the school system, the number of teachers who left every year was disturbing.
"These teachers are doing a disservice to the teaching profession," he said.
Dr Bassah Quansah noted that the work to be done by these teachers was now being done by the untrained teachers.
Citing an example, Dr Bassah Quansah said some schools in the villages had only a teacher to three classes while a whole school might have the headmaster and one teacher manning the school. He said the phasing out of the services of the untrained teachers would not be possible.
They were well adapted to the difficulties of life in the rural areas and were willing to work in areas where trained teachers had rejected to work, Dr Bassah Quansah said.
He recommended that professional training through distance learning during vacations should be given to them to raise their knowledge and professional academic skills.
To improve retention, Dr Bassah Quansah said attention should be given to improving the conditions of service of teachers who accepted to teach in the rural areas in terms of accommodation, salaries and the provision of solar lamps, which were very much needed in their work.
He also recommended that the GES should come out with a policy that would check the number of teachers who went for study leave whilst the training colleges also loosed their admission requirements and admitted more students.
He called on district assemblies to sponsor some of the teachers in their communities saying, this would force them to stay and teach in their locality.
The Reverend Mrs Ama Afo Blay, Director-General of GES, commended the University for conducting the study and said they had started implementing most of the recommendations.
He said they would collaborate with the University when implementing most of the recommendations.