"Honesty is a very expensive gift, don't expect it from cheap people " (Warren Buffet)
Educational Workers Connect, an educational Think Tank whose principal objective is advocating for quality education and its related issues across the country, is once again taken aback after listening to our president, His Excellency Nana Addo during his 16th national address on COVID-19 on Sunday, 30th August 2020.
In his address, specifically on measures concerning issues regarding our education, he stated emphatically that our brothers and sisters in JHS 2 and SHS 2 are to return to school on 5th October 2020. However, the students from the kindergarten to the SHS one are to return to school in January 2021. This means that the academic calendar for this year is virtually thrown out of gear.
Even though we do not have issues with the decision, no matter how uncomfortable it will be for some other stakeholders in the sector, ie the Private Schools who have been badly hit by the decision and the situation for obvious reasons, we find the announcement by our President very puzzling and worrying.
Our position stems from
the fact that during the 15th address by the president also on COVID-19, he intimated that there was going to be a very broad consultation and some discussions with the relevant stakeholders to determine the modalities ie WHEN" and "HOW" our schools would be reopened. This announcement we received with utmost excitement because we knew that was the best way to go.
Consequently, the Minister of Education, Hon. Mathew Opoku Prempeh inaugurated a 10 member committee made up of men and women of high integrity and substance chaired by the good Prof. Dominic Fobi. This committee, we also expressed our reservations concerning the composition of the membership and asked the minister to expand the scope of the membership of the committee. We argued that, excluding the teacher unions, the national chairman of PTA, CHASS and a health expert whose views and ideas are very crucial to arriving at any final decision that will inform the president on the way forward to reopen the schools was inappropriate and disrespectful to the teachers. We were of the view that including those stakeholders in the committee would make the committee very solid and complete. Regrettably, this noble call asking the minister to expand the scope of the committee was not heeded by the minister.
Moving forward, we were told by the minister as captured in his release as part of the terms of reference for the committee was to establish WHEN it will be appropriate for the schools to reopen.
He also stated unambiguously that the committee was expected to submit their final report to him by 21 September 2020 for onward submission to the president for actions to be taken.
It, therefore, stands to reason that the date, conditions and other modalities that would inform the president would be influenced by the committee's report as was captured in the minister's statement.
We are, therefore, shocked to the marrow when we heard the president announced that our students in JHS 2 and SHS 2 were to report back to school on 5 October 2021. This date comes almost a month ahead of the date the committee was supposed to submit their report to the minister and then to the president.
We, therefore, ask the following questions that are agitating the minds of the many stakeholders in the sector, including Ghanaians.
- Was the committee indeed inaugurated by the minister as published in some of the dailies?
- If yes, did they submit their report to the minister and then to the president for his actions which includes the decision to reopen the schools for a section of the students to return?
- Did the president indeed consult those who matter as he made us to believe?
- If he did, can we respectfully be told the expert advice he had which informed the decision as he has always done in the case of decisions concerning the COVID situations knowing when we were told the committee was supposed to present their report?
- How come the announcement had been made ahead of the date for the submission of the report by the committee?
- Is it the case that, the committee was just inaugurated to exist on paper while the main decision was already made?
- Was the committee paid in whatever form, be it allowance or whatever?
- If yes, is that not waste of the taxpayer's money?
- Who is being honest with Ghanaians here by setting up a purported committee? The president or the minister?
These are the nagging questions that we respectfully want answers for.
According to William Shakespeare, "No legacy is so rich as honesty" Are our leaders being honest with us? How long shall we as a nation and as governments be playing politics with our education which is already having dire consequences on our very much cherished education?
We want to state that these unfortunate actions do not engender trust, hope and cooperation among the shareholders in the sector which will have very serious ramifications for us as a nation in the future as far as our education is concerned. Thomas Jefferson also puts it succinctly that " Honesty is the first chapter in the Book of Wisdom ". We owe it as a duty and a civic right to be honest to ourselves and to the good people of Ghana.
Educational Workers Connect, is very much unhappy with these developments in the educational sector as this seems to be a trend as far as taking very crucial decisions concerning education are arbitrarily taken without recourse to the stakeholders and experts in the sector.
We are therefore respectfully calling on the government and the minister in particular whose continuous disregard to teachers and other stakeholders in the sector is becoming a worry to many observers including teachers.
This is very crucial because these actions do not and cannot promote the quality of Education that our Think Tank and Ghanaians are advocating for.
Finally, we once again demand answers to those myriads of questions asked above to clear all manner of suspicions lingering in the minds of Ghanaians.
This will also help promote the cooperation that the government will want from the stakeholders to move the sector forward.
As we speak, our checks indicate that the teacher unions were not even consulted before the decision to reopen the schools was announced. Is this not unfair and unacceptable? Why is government continuously having difficulty consulting the teacher unions in many of such crucial decision makings?
We also respectfully call on the president to consider giving some packages to our colleagues in the private schools who will be out of job for 10 months if not more. This will help mitigate their sufferings a bit.
We end our call on the government to as a matter of urgency rectify all the anomalies to make the reopening of the schools a smooth one.
" Honesty is indeed the best policy " ( Benjamin Franklin).
God bless Ghana!
Daniel Yao Agbezudor