All school children between the ages of five and 12 in public schools will soon be provided with personal computers by the government.
Designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)in the United States of America (USA), the computers are to enable the children acquire skills in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which is currently the most critical basic instrument of education world-wide.
Making the disclosure in Sunyani, President J. A. Kufuor said the deal for the supply of the computers was negotiated two years ago by the late Finanace Minister, Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu.
To acknowledge the role he played, the machines are to be called “Baah-Wiredu's Computer a child” to honour his memory.
Speaking at the 14th annual Teachers Awards ceremony in Sunyani yesterday, President Kufuor announced that the first batch of 10,000 units of what he described as “Magic Computers for Children” would soon arrive in the country in fulfilment of the government's promise.
The President said “Baah-Wiredu was assigned the responsibility two years ago to negotiate with MIT, the creators of the machine, to supply all children in Ghana”.
“Rather tragically and sadly, the very day the producers came to present a sample of the wonder machine to me in New York, two weeks ago, was when news of the minister's demise reached me. Here is the sample which I brought to show you,” he said.
The President then called for a minute's silence to be observed in Mr Baah-Wiredu's memory and remarked, “We cannot honour his memory enough. He was a dedicated public servant.”
In all, 52 teachers selected from 12 categories, as well as workers in education, were honoured for their hard work, patriotism and dedication to duty, with the Overall National Best Teacher award going to Mr Sadique Boateng, a 42-year-old Integrated Science and ICT teacher of the T.I. Ahmadiyya Senior High School (SHS) in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.
The theme for the celebration was, “Quality Teachers for Quality Education: Teachers Matter”.
At the same ceremony, 40 retired teachers selected from the various districts of the host region were honoured.
President Kufuor also announced that textbooks and supplementary reading materials for all levels of education, from kindergarten, through primary and junior high school (JHS) to SHS, had been procured and were being distributed from district to district.
Happily, the President noted, the emphasis on ICT in the educational reform was beginning to show the need to make ICT user friendly, adding that technical schools and the science resource centres in the 10 regional capitals were also being rehabilitated and resourced to give school leavers the rounded education the global market needed.
President Kufuor again announced that the government aimed at providing every teacher with a personal computer, explaining that “teachers must master the magic machine before they can guide their pupils to make any headway in it. Indeed, government intends to sustain the progress made thus far by motivating teachers in different ways”.
He announced that he had directed that the October 2006 salaries of some teachers which were suspended due to a strike they had embarked on be restored forthwith, adding that it was the government's show of solidarity with the teachers as they celebrated the awards day.
According to President Kufuor, a progressive review of teachers' salaries continued to engage government's attention and further announced that preparations were underway to implement the recommendations for a single-spine salary structure to ensure that all workers received equal pay for equal work next year.
Other incentives for the teacher, he said, included 130 units of accommodation for them, free bicycles for those in deprived schools and motorbikes for circuit supervisors for purchase on manageable terms.
The President said to enhance management efficiency, 200 buses had been provided for the district education offices, while 100 Toyota 4x4 pick-up vehicles had been supplied to the district directorates of education and heads of selected SHS and that 40 Mahindra 4x4 Jeeps were expected for distribution to other SHS.
He paid tribute to the award winners and urged them to work harder than before by returning to their classrooms and offices more committed than before.
“Let me take this opportunity, at this stage, to thank our development partners who have also been contributing to government's efforts at improving and modernising education in the country. Their continued assistance is proof that truly the international community is evolving into an interdependent world,” he noted.
President Kufuor said by the operations of the national Constitution, his tenure as the President of the Republic was coming to an end in two months' time and that he could not leave the scene without expressing his sincere appreciation and acknowledgement to the leadership and all in the educational sector, both public and private, for the dramatic growth in the sector.
Story by A.Ampratwum-Mensah
& Samuel Duodu