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07.10.2008 Education

Computers for school children soon - Kufuor


All schoolchildren aged between five and 12 years would be given personal computers, President John Agyekum Kufuor announced when he addressed the 14th National Best Teacher Award/World Teachers' Day ceremony at Sunyani on Tuesday.
He said the Government was in the process of equipping all schools with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) designed personal computers for all school children from age five to 12 years, adding that the first batch of 10,000 units of the computers, a sample of which he displayed, would be delivered in the country soon.

President Kufuor explained that negotiations between the Government and the MIT for the supply of the computers; dubbed "wonder machine" started about two years ago and under the leadership of the late Finance Minister, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu.

"Logically government policy should aim also at equipping every teacher with a personal computer. It goes without saying that the teacher must master the magic machine to be able to guide pupils to make headway with it," he said.

President Kufuor said the Government's policies since 2001 had aimed at, among other things, enhancing access to quality education for children of school going-age and providing suitable and adequate facilities for teaching and learning.

"The educational reform, including the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (F-CUBE) is to ensure equality of opportunity for all children, regardless of disparities in the financial circumstances of their families", he said.

He explained that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) launched by the UN in the year 2000 stipulated that all children of school-going-age around the globe should be in school by 2015 and that Ghanaians should feel proud that the country was looked on as one of the countries south of the Sahara likeliest to achieve the target by the deadline.

President Kufuor said the Government intended to sustain the progress made thus far by motivating teachers in different ways, noting that turning teacher training colleges into diploma awarding institutions has already happened.

He said subsequent to the diploma, the teacher "has to do only two more years of study in a university to obtain the Bachelors Degree in education by taking a study leave or alternatively he or she may also acquire the same qualification while remaining on the job by distance learning".

President Kufuor said progressive review of teacher's salaries continued to engage the Government's attention, announcing that preparations were underway to implement recommendations beginning next year for a single-spine of salary structure to ensure that all workers received equal pay for equal work.

He said other incentives including 130 units of accommodation of two; three or four bedrooms for teachers have been constructed nationwide, with more units under construction.

"Distribution of bicycles at no cost to teachers in deprived districts has commenced. Motorcycles have also been provided to circuit supervisors on hire purchase on manageable terms", adding, to enhance management efficiency, 200 buses have been provided for district offices", President Kufuor said.

He mentioned that 100 Toyota 4 x 4 pickup trucks have been supplied to directorates of education and heads of selected secondary schools, while 40 Mahinta 4 x 4 jeeps were expected in the country for distribution to senior high schools.

President Kufuor noted that the teachers' award package had been made more attractive than ever before, saying this year in line with the policy initiated three years ago, 40 retired teachers in Brong Ahafo, the host Region, have also been recognized for their dedicated services.

He said the teacher's calling had become the most challenging ever, "as the responsibility falls more and more on the teacher not only to educate the child but also to socialize him or her to the attitudinal traits that nurture tolerance and community feeling.

"It is in this sense that the teacher becomes the main institution and agency for shaping the personality and image of our communities and indeed humanity", he said, and noted that nobody could deny the critical relevance of the teacher to social development.

President Kufuor on behalf of the Government and the people of Ghana saluted "our gallant teachers and workers in the education sector on the occasion of the 14th Best Teachers' Award ceremony" and asked the award winners to return to their schools, classrooms and offices more committed than ever before to their profession.

He thanked the country's development partners, "who have also been contributing to Government's efforts in improving and modernizing education", saying; their continued assistance was proof that truly the international community was evolving into an interdependent world.

President Kufuor announced that following appeals by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and National Association of Graduate teachers (NAGRAT) he had directed that suspended salaries of some teachers, who embarked on a strike action two years ago, be restored.

Mr Joseph Kwaku Adjei, President of GNAT, called on Presidential aspirants in the December Elections to think of the teacher's status as one of their priority areas, saying "any group of people, who care about their future should give those men and women the credit; support, moral and material recognition they deserved for their challenging tasks in the classroom".

He appealed to the Police to continue to be very professional in their quest to ensure very peaceful elections and this should go beyond the assurances they have given.

"Those who violate the laws should be prosecuted irrespective of which political camp the suspect belongs to", he said, noting that this would assure the public that they were on top of the job and also earn them sufficient community support and co-operation.

In a welcoming address, Mr Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, urged teachers to aim at improving the performance in their various schools, stressing that their duty "must not be limited to teaching the students to memorize things just for the purpose of passing examinations".

"Your duty must transcend into helping the students to identify their innate talents so that in appreciation of such talents they can grow up knowing precisely what they are most suited for. Most importantly the children must be trained for service that will make them lead better lives after school", the Regional Minister said.