The 46th annual Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) has opened in Sunyani, with a call on the two umbrella bodies of Ghanaian teachers to steer clear of partisan politics.
Opening the conference in the Brong Ahafo regional capital on Wednesday, the Vice- Chancellor of the Catholic University College of Ghana (CUCG) at Fiapre, Professor James Hawkins Ephraim, asked the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) to avoid becoming tools of any political party but work towards satisfying the aspirations of their members.
That, according to Prof Ephraim, required that GNAT and NAGRAT would apply the necessary pressure for the government to provide an enabling environment for teachers to provide quality teaching and leadership for students.
Speaking on the theme for the six-day conference, “Promoting Quality Educational Leadership and Excellence”, the CUCG Vice-Chancellor stressed that the two professional bodies ought to devise innovative strategies that would enhance the acquisition of leadership skills by their members, in collaboration with other stakeholders.
“Quality leadership in our schools, with the ultimate result in excellence, can be promoted when the stakeholders learn to adopt a synergistic approach to their interaction.
That is, all stakeholders should resolve to play their part well in such a manner to encourage themselves to offer their best,” he declared.
According to Prof Ephraim, quality educational leadership might also be promoted through a comprehensive motivational package, saying that all teachers should be given enhanced conditions of service, supported with funds from the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund).
He pointed out that if all teachers enjoyed favourable conditions of service, there might be no need to organise Best Teacher Awards because, according to him, all teachers would be able to buy or build their own houses through the provision of affordable financial facilities.
The vice-chancellor declared, “Such motivation given to teachers at all levels will contribute to the promotion of quality educational leadership which, in turn, will translate into academic excellence.”
Prof Ephraim also suggested that comprehensive leadership training should be given to all heads of high schools, adding that as a logical extension, teachers should be given training in leadership skills through specially organised seminars or via a strategic incorporation of leadership topics in the teacher training curriculum.
The Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Prof Dominic K. Fobih, who opened the conference, noted that the knowledge and skills acquired through the numerous interventional strategies provided by the ministry would adequately equip the heads to become agents of positive change in helping to make secondary education the pivot of human resource development.
He said the ministry had always held the firm conviction that a strong school leadership was crucial in establishing a successful educational system, saying that was why the current educational reform emphasised, among other things, capacity building as a key component to quality educational delivery in the country.
He observed that the Educational Sector Project (Edsep), a World Bank assisted project, had offered the opportunity for heads of institutions to acquire the needed acumen as part of building their capacity.
Similarly, he said, the ministry, through the Ghana Education Service (GES), recently held a training workshop at Ajumako for heads of second-cycle schools and their accountants on financial management, under the Development of Senior Secondary Education Project (DSSEP), an African Development Bank (ADB) funded programme, as part of the ministry's practical efforts to improve the capacity of educational leadership.
The National President of CHASS, Mr Samuel Ofori-Adjei, pointed out that the perennial delay in the payment of scholarships to beneficiary institutions was a great source of worry and frustration to members.
“Ideally, we should be able to access this money latest by the middle of every term and I hope the measures being put in place by the management of the GES, with the support of the sector ministry, will resolve this issue once and for all.
When that is done, we shall be able to concentrate more on our core responsibility, which is to supervise teaching and learning outcomes, more efficiently,” he observed.
According to Mr Ofori-Adjei, CHASS had made moves at the appropriate quarters for an upward review of the feeding fees that members were currently permitted to charge students, adding, “The reality on the ground is that 80Gp per student is woefully inadequate if we are to feed adolescents who eat a lot, through no fault of theirs, well so that they can concentrate on their studies”.
The National President of CHASS further declared, “Our calculations show that we may find it extremely difficult to end the term successfully, if we do not look at the issue critically.”
The Rector of the Sunyani Polytechnic, Prof Kwasi Nsiah-Gyabaah, who chaired the function, noted that with the introduction of the Procurement Law and the Financial Administration Act, heads of educational institutions were seriously constrained because traders refused to sell on credit to them, while most local traders were unable to provide invoices, as required by the law, for items to be purchased. At the same time, boarding students ought to be fed.