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03.09.2020 Feature Article

The Teacher’s Reward Is Here

The Teacher’s Reward Is Here
LISTEN SEP 3, 2020

“Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and love of bringing the first two loves together.” - Scott Hayden

“And when I am forgotten, as I shall be, and sleep in dull cold marble, where no mention of me must be heard of, I say, I taught thee.” - Henry VIII William Shakespeare

“A good teacher is like candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.” - Mustapha Kamal Ataturk

When we were young, we used to be bombarded with the saying, 'A teacher's reward is in heaven'. Some of us gulped this African saying, and decided to go into teaching, getting satisfaction from the ability to groom 'little minds' into great scholars in future. And our hopes were ignited by the belief and hope of going to heaven. A little salary—insufficient recompense—to satisfy the bare basic needs, plus a little 'thank you' from students and their parents—were all we needed. Sometimes, teachers had to dip their hands into their pockets to assist some needy students!

Then some teachers began asking relevant questions: Are all teachers going to go to heaven? Suppose we do not go to heaven, what happens to our reward? Where is heaven? Is heaven inhabited by teachers alone?

Jesus, they say, was a great teacher. Remember the 'Sermon on the Mount' (Vulgate Latin calls it Sermo in Monte) found in Matthew which include The Lord's Prayer: “Judge not, that ye be not judged”; “seek God's kingdom first”; OR think about the “Beatitudes”: “Blessed are the hungry…; Blessed are the poor in spirit…; Blessed are the truly poor…; Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice…; Blessed are those persecuted for the sake of justice…; Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…; Blessed are those who show mercy…; Blessed are the single hearted, for they shall enjoy peace; blessed are the peacemakers…; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

When Professor Kwesi Yankah, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education, launched the 2020 Ghana Teacher Prize (GTP) in Accra last week, he called on “stakeholders to renew their commitment to the educational sector.” Professor Yankah launched the 'awards' on behalf of the Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh.

The event, slated for October, 5, will be held in Ghana's 'educational city', Cape Coast, and the aim is to reward teachers who have shown class and distinguished themselves. This, hopefully, will motivate teachers. The winner takes home a three-bedroom house. The first runner-up will have a 4×4 pick-up and the second runner-up will be given a saloon car. The 4×4 double cabin pick-up was donated by Prudential Bank. How we wish the vehicles could be sold, and the thousands of cedis earned used to erect a two-bedroom house and a one-bedroom house for the first and second runners-up respectively. There are other prizes to be vied for: deep freezers, refrigerators, television sets, laptops and educational materials.

Professor Yankah, commending all teachers, urged corporate bodies and individuals to donate towards the GTP to show appreciation to teachers for all the good work they do. He stated, “I want to urge us all to renew our commitment to the education of our children and particularly to our teachers who make it all happen under these trying circumstances.” Recalling the effect of the Covid-19, Professor Yankah noted, “If there is one thing the pandemic has taught parents, it is lessons about the critical role of teachers in the midst of such global crisis.”

Mr. Christian Addai-Poku, the acting Executive Secretary of the National Teaching Council, noted the risks teachers take in our part of the world, playing the role of 'frontline health professionals'. He recognised the adoption of innovative ways to get students to learn, even as schools all over the world had been shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, you will get teachers who will send questions to their students via WhatsApp and the homework sent back to the teachers through the same channel for marking.

The categories of awardees, definitely, will include the best primary school teacher, the best junior high school teacher, the best senior high school teacher, the best special school for persons with disability… Last year (2019), female teachers claimed all the three topmost awards at the 2019 Ghana Teacher Prize event in Kumasi. Sabina Koba Dosu of the St. Dominic Roman Catholic Basic School at Akwatia in the Eastern Region won the ultimate prize as 'Ghana's Most Outstanding Teacher'. Philip Darko, a teacher of the State Experimental M/A School in Kumasi, became the first runner-up, taking home a 4×4 pick-up. The second runner-up place was taken by Christiana Yeyeh of the Yumba Special School for the Intellectually Disabled, Tamale; she was given a saloon car as her prize.

The Ghana Best Teacher Prize, previously dubbed The National Best Teacher Award Scheme, was established in October 1994 by the Ministry of Education, under the leadership of Harry Romulus Sawyer. The judging team for the selection include academics, head teachers, public officials, company directors, journalists, scientists and entertainment personalities. The award ceremony had very humble beginnings, as if by their background and orientation teachers loathe big, expensive things. So may it be. But for the training college allowances, the non-payment of fees, et cetera at the training colleges, some of us may not have had education beyond the primary level. The second verse of the Methodist Hymn Book numbered 514 'He that is down needs fear no fall…' is: 'I am content with what I have Little be it or much And Lord contentment still I crave Because thou savest such'. You may guess why Lawyer Kwame Awuah of Nkunim Chambers, Kumasi, loves this verse. The Almighty has been gracious to him! And I.K. Gyasi, my brother who was headmaster of Amass, Kumasi…great men at their age!

The impending ceremony should not be seen as a one-off event. The proud winners should feel motivated enough to give of their best to the Ghanaian society knowing full well that they are being watched and marked. Those who fail to make the mark should remember Ayikwei Armah's book; 'The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born'. Their time will come sooner or later… So, like George Orwell, 'Keep the Aspidistra flying'. We wish every teacher well, the best of luck…Now, the teacher's reward is no longer in Heaven. It is here on earth!

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From Africanus Owusu-Ansah

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