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09.07.2005 Feature Article

Paying Teachers

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Over the years, teachers have without success agitated for better salaries. There were times gone that they were told to wait till they went to heaven for their pay. Present socioeconomic factors make it difficult for any reasonable person to continue to stick to this line of thought since they needed to survive before they left for the heavens. Given that teachers agreed to go to heaven for their remuneration the fact still stands that they would need to prepare and appeared neatly dressed.

Various reasons have been advanced to explain why teachers are not paid well. One is the fact that they are many. A hundred cedi increase in salary, though small to the individual, presents a major arrangements in the government's financial projections for the country. Another is that there are various categories and each has their own demands and challenges. The other argument is that they are all trained at the expense of the state. Still others argue that teaching is a public service that cannot be easily compensated for.

The government's decision to train its own teachers has a number of advantages. First, it gives the government chance to train them the way it wants. Second, it is able to control their salaries since invariably they are asked to pay for their training. Third it is able to get teachers to places that normally it would be hard to. Fourth it is a very laudable way to get other wise brilliant citizens to be educated without spending much money. While these arguments may be in the interest of the government, they have variously contributed to the demise of the profession. Teachers are mocked by market women as sensenfo because they haggle more than the average Ghanaian.

President Nkrumah, in his bid to get more teachers to handle his fee-free education, introduced the two-year teacher's certificate 'B'. He enticed them with free tuition, boarding and lodging in addition to some allowances. These offers were too good to be ignored. Graduates of this program became stocked up in the villages and had to struggle to get out of their educational graves. In the early sixties, the four-year certificate 'A' was introduced with emphasis on both academic and professional training. In 1965, to be specific, he opened more teacher training colleges to supplement the existing ones. They would not come out before he was overthrown in a military coup de tat. While Nkrumah spent resources to train teachers he gave perhaps little thought to their remuneration.

The military government that succeeded Nkrumah, the National Liberation Council (NLC) made things even worse, especially for the teacher-trainees. General Afrifa went on record that 'it would be unwise to pay allowances to students in teacher training colleges'. One expected that the money taken from the students would be passed on to the teachers already in the field but nothing like that happened. Ironically, it took another military government, the Provincial National Defense Council, (PNDC) to restore it later.

The Busia administration that followed introduced some innovations that today, perhaps, had led to the influx of teachers into our universities. He grand fathered the Cert B into Cert A by organizing special classes for them. He also paired the Cert A (4-year) with the Post-Sec Cert A by using the G. C. E.(O L) as the common denominator. In effect all teachers with GCE (OL) were put on the same salary. This was incentive enough for the A (4-Year) to study privately to pass the GCE (OL). He went a step further by equating Cert A with GCE (A-L) to the rank of Assistant Education Officer (AEO). Until then it took teachers donkey years to be promoted to that title. The salary for the AEO was almost double that of the Cert-A teacher. As teachers passed the GCE A-Level they found out that they qualified for admission into our universities to pursue degree courses. Incidentally, the difference in terms of salary between the graduate teacher and that of the AEO was not all that significant. However, the acquisition of the university degree accelerated teachers' promotion into much higher responsible positions.

It must be stated that as teachers improved academically from the O-level to the A-Level they relied on their own resources and at each level they enjoyed higher salaries especially when they passed the A-Level. On the other hand when they were sponsored at their initial training and at the universities they were poorly paid. Anything free is very costly in the long run. It is costing teachers so much in terms of their salaries for accepting to be trained freely by the government. The government is directly asking teachers to pay back with interest the money spent to train them by paying them lower salaries.

Will teachers be paid better if they paid for their own training? To answer this question one has to look at other professions, their training and remuneration. Among the best paid professions in Ghana are the Accountants (Chartered Accountants), Bankers and Lawyers. Individuals in these professions pursue courses by spending from their own resources. Based on this I am inclined to suggest that government should get out of the training of teachers. This over simplifies the idea of training since it overlooks other factors such as length of training, course content and target population/market.

Is it possible for the government to get out of the training of teachers? Presently the requirement for entry into a teacher training college is the same as that for an admission into a university for a degree course. Why will the government spend resources to train someone for a diploma while that same person can be educated for a university degree? The rational for the 4-year Cert-A was for the individual to acquire academic standard equivalent to the secondary school level. The first two years were thus basically academic work while the next two was on professional development. This explained why those from secondary schools needed only two years of training to become teachers. The Junior/Senior Secondary School system has positively brought about significant changes in our educational system whereby the government does not need to spend additional resources to reeducate teacher-trainees. Which means that there is no need for the government to train the teachers for that number of years - three years.

My argument is that government should go for university graduates and spend little or no resources to train them as teachers and stop the duplication. If you gave them diplomas they would after a year or two turn round and go for their degrees. The system has already overproduced graduates and is unable to absorb them. The writing is already on the wall that the basic qualification to be a teacher in Ghana is evolving from Cert-B into a degree. It makes sense to make the Teacher Training Colleges as either Resource Centers where those with degrees would be prepared to get into the profession and/or extensions of some of the existing universities. Already the government is gradually getting out of university education as students are increasingly being called upon to bear the cost. The introduction of the Students Loan Scheme indicates that government is waiting at the red light only to gudu the instance the green light is on.

Will this translate into better salaries for teachers? As the government gets out of both teacher training and university education all the subsidies, grants, scholarships and all expenses that it used to bear are going to be released and a sensible way out would be to divert them into the remuneration of teachers to attract the target population into the profession. Individuals with Students' Loan on their hands would always look for jobs that would help pay them off on time. To determine an appropriate salary for teachers one has to take into consideration the following: job preparation, job delivery, supervision and responsibility. It is very interesting to note that teaching is the only profession that combines all these and yet without compensation. I got bored when the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) in their recent industrial action fought for an increase in allowances. It appeared the teachers themselves did not know what they wanted. Each of the categories is a complete job and should attract a salary of its own. They should be separated and handled by individuals. This is the more reason they deserve a better salary.

Unfortunately, teachers have been deceived and cheated by being offered allowances as compensation for combining the categories I have listed and even that they had to resort to an industrial action before they were paid. Allowance is not the best option. It can be withdrawn at any given time. It offers a temporal relieve. It is my position that government should convert all allowances into a reasonable salary so it can have positive impact on their pension. There should not be a responsibility allowance rather a salary that befits a responsible position. If this happened NAGRAT would not go on striking for an increase in invigilation, headmasters and housemasters allowance.

Government has to set a minimum salary for a degree holder as a way of making education in Ghana more meaningfully rewarding regardless of where the individual is employed. Using this as a base those who get employed as teachers would be given a salary above the minimum as in the case of pupil teachers, a special one after being classified as a professional teacher and a responsible salary for a responsible position. Opanin Kwabena Mensah July 3, 2005 Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Opanin Kwabena Mensah
Opanin Kwabena Mensah, © 2005

The author has 37 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: OpaninKwabenaMensah

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