(A GNA Feature By George Ramsey Benamba)
Wa, Aug. 10 GNA - The perennial shortage of staff especially teachers in the rural areas of the country has for years now been a major impediment to the development of all levels of education in the country.
Right down from the basic to tertiary levels, there are either lack of qualified teachers or no teachers at all to handle some of the subjects in the nation's numerous schools in spite of the high turnout of teachers from various teacher training colleges and other professional institutions in the country.
In most cases, the teachers either join other organisations or move out of the country for greener pastures.
In some regions and cities, there is over concentration of teachers leaving the rural and deprived areas without teachers to take up teaching hence the annual poor performance of pupils from the rural areas at Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE). The problem has remained a burning issue in the country over the years and not even the introduction of teachers' quarters and provision of bicycles for teachers in the rural areas among other incentives could entice most of the teachers to where their services were needed most. The under-staffing in schools has, therefore, become an accepted norm in some schools in the country particularly in the Northern sector for very peculiar reasons.
Geographically, the Northern Regions have not been endowed with natural resources like the Southern part of the country and, therefore, have since the independence of the country created a classical dichotomy of the Southern Rich and Northern Poor.
As a result, all kinds of stories are constantly being told of the North, which has over the years become a scaring factor to teachers and other workers posted to any of the Northern Regions.
Notwithstanding the fact that various Governments have made all kinds of moves to bridge the yawning gap between the South and the North, there are still a few ignorant people, who keep on peddling unsubstantiated stories to scare teachers away from the North. Apart from the above, there have been persistent chieftaincy, ethnic and land disputes over the last two decades in parts of the North, which have scared workers from going into the area. The Government has over the years provided amenities such as decent accommodation, potable water, electricity and telecommunication in most communities of the North to attract workers.
To further bridge that yawning gap, therefore, the Ministry of Education and Sports and for that matter, the Government through the Ghana Education Service (GES) has inaugurated a programme that would train more teachers to feed schools in the three Northern Regions and Afram Plains in the Eastern Region.
Under the programme - Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education (UTTDBE), a total of 4,977 untrained teachers were initially selected for training to become professional teachers in the next four years in the three Northern Regions and Afram Plains in the Eastern Region.
Later on, the GES extended the date of enrolment to enable more people to be roped into the programme to get more teachers for "fallowing schools", which suggest they could be more.
The students study Mathematics, English Language, Communication and Study Skills, Physical Education and Principles and Practice of Education. They would at the end of every sandwich term write examinations to determine their fate in the course.
Most of the students are either pupil teachers in communities or volunteer teachers and are, therefore, accustomed to the practical aspect of teaching and it is envisaged that on completion, with a diploma in basic education, these teachers would accept postings back to their previous places or rural communities in general. As matured students, just like modular courses introduced in the training colleges two decades ago, the students are given more room to operate in terms of rules and regulations on campus, which would create a congenial atmosphere for them to study hard to come out as good professional teachers.
Good as the programme is, it is hoped that the government would continue to support them for at least the next 15 years to produce more teachers to handle most of the deprived schools in the country. It is also hoped that District Assemblies, non-governmental organisations and individual philanthropists would take advantage of this offer to support more students, who would on completion be posted to the otherwise "teacherless" schools in their areas.
Government should also consider replicating the programme in other regions that also face similar problems so as to improve the general educational standards of the country.
Students who however do not make good marks in their examinations should be withdrawn from the programme so as not to bring half-baked teachers, who would worsen the plight of their pupils.
Although the country is without adequate teachers to handle its numerous schools and pupils it would be better to take only quality teachers to push the educational standards upwards rather than allowing poor teachers to dig pits for the burial of good education.
It is good news to hear Mr Michael Nsowah, Director General of Ghana Education Service in one of his inaugural ceremonies stating that they would work hard to retain the students and it is hoped that that statement would continue to be an inspiration to the students. The students should also put up good and high moral behaviour that would spur them on to become quality teachers to give them enviable status in education in the future. 10 Aug. 05