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25.10.2013 Feature Article

Reconsider Ban on Teacher Recruitment!

Reconsider Ban on Teacher Recruitment!
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In a country where education is the topmost priority of the government, a ban on teacher recruitment, if even temporary should never be considered as a solution to any educational problem. But, since August 20, 2013, Ms Benedicta Nana Biney, the Director-General of Ghana Education Service (GES), has placed a ban on teacher recruitment in all public schools in the country.

Apart from the myriad of of educational problems in Ghana such as inadequate infrastructure, there is currently a 60,000 teacher deficit at the basic level of education alone. The situation at the secondary education level is not different. What then is the rationale for the ban on teacher recruitment, if I may ask? For the past decade, the general public has been skeptical about the quality of products being churned out of our schools. Therefore, any action to deny the child access to quality teaching is a misplaced one.

It was against this backdrop that the government of Ghana deemed it fit to introduce teacher trainee allowances and study leave with pay for teachers several decades ago. This was meant not only to attract quality personnel into the teaching service, but also to improve their professional competence.

Unfortunately, in 2013 under Mahama-led NDC government, the teacher trainee allowance in the Colleges of Education has been scrapped whilst several restrictions have been put on the study leave with pay. This has put so much financial strain on teacher trainees, especially students from the rural areas. The series of demonstrations and strikes by teacher unions go to underscore the plight of the Ghanaian teacher in the era of a Better Ghana agenda.

For several years, educational policies introduced by the P/NDC government have not inured to the benefit of the Ghanaian child and the country. For instance, in 1987, a new education reform (JHS/SHS concept) was introduced without the needed resources to achieve its purpose. As a result, the education of over 100,000 graduates from the country's Middle Schools came to a halt. Also in 1993, the academic calendar of the country's public universities was delayed for a year because of the strike action embarked upon by the lecturers (UTAG). In 2009, the NDC's priority under a whole former university lecturer, John Mills was to reverse the SHS duration from 4 to 3 years. In 2010, some teachers who embarked on peaceful demonstration for better pay were sprayed with hot water by the Police. In 2012 under John Mahama, the man who never paid a pesewa towards his entire education, the free secondary education proposal by the NPP was untimely. To them, quality education at the basic level should precede free SHS. Where then is the quality, Mr. Mahama, since we are being told today that common chalk has now become a scarce commodity in our schools?

In my recent interaction with the Director-General of GES, it was revealed that the GES payroll was bloated with ghost names, hence the placement of the ban by his outfit. Some heads of educational institutions have connived with personnel from the Accountant-General's Office and financial institutions to siphon state funds into their pockets. They do so by faking appointment letters for newly-recruited teachers. For instance, an appointment letter meant for say June 2013 could be backdated to read June 2015. The ensuing salary arrears are therefore shared among these "educational armed robbers". Surprisingly, teachers who are dead, those who have travelled outside the country or left the profession are still being paid by the Accountant General. In some instances, registered numbers of some teachers who are dead are sold to some people who never passed through the Colleges of Education. This enables such people to withdraw salaries as practising teachers.

From the above, one would be tempted to agree with the Director-General to some extent. However, my beef lies with how many problems are being created as a result of solving one educational problem. Admittedly, whilst the public purse is being protected by the ban, our kids suffer because they do not have teachers to teach them. Apart from increasing the unemployment levels among university graduates, the ban is a disincentive to the professional development of teachers, because those who leave the profession for further studies cannot be re-engaged.

In Ghana and many other countries, it is an abomination for unqualified persons to enter or practice certain professions such as law and medicine. Surprisingly, the teaching profession in Ghana has become a safe-haven for many young graduates who never attended any of the country's Colleges of Education. But, how many of such people could enter the hospitals and give injections or perform surgeries on patients in their capacity as nurses or surgeons? Yet, if you enter any classroom, it is common to find graduates from the SHSs, polytechnics, and universities practise as teachers. Why can't teaching be limited to professional teachers as pertains in medicine, architecture, and law? For me, if a stop is not put to this phenomenon, the teaching profession would lose its status as a profession sooner than later.

Having been trained as a professional teacher at Wesley College of Education, coupled with a study leave with pay at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, it is unreasonable for my services to be denied by the GES just because I left the GES for further studies abroad. It is also illogical for this ban to take effect in Ghana in view of the 60,000 teacher deficit. Is this action tantamount to brain drain or brain gain?

In fact, the GES might not be aware of the extent of social damage this directive is causing many families, but several phone calls I have received from those affected indicate that the ban is counter-productive. For reasons best known to the GES, appointment letters given to new recruits before the ban came into effect have been retrieved. Also, for close to two years, some teachers at post have not been paid their salaries. Yet, it is propagated in the mass media on daily basis that we are in the second phase of the Better Ghana Agenda.

In winding down, I would appeal to the Director-General of GES, as well as the Minister of Education to lift the ban with immediate effect. Ghanaians are very much aware that the decision to freeze teacher recruitment was based on lack of funds in the national coffers and not necessarily the ghost names on the payroll. Remember, the "meat is down to the bone", hence the freeze on all public sector employment. If the NDC government had been able to pay over GHC800m as judgement debts, including Wayome's GHC51.2m, distributed laptops to university ladies, and provided vehicles to paramount chiefs, I see no reason why the government cannot employ more teachers to teach our own children. If president Mahama could increase his salary from GHC5,000 to GHC12,000 every month, that of MPs and ministers from GHC3,000 to GHC7,200, created new constituencies and districts against public will, then I have no sympathy for him at this time. After all, Ghana is an oil producing country; our economy has been touted as the fastest growing; inflation is down; and our gold, cocoa, timber, and diamond continue to find their way on the world market. Therefore, coupled with the high taxes we pay as citizens, and the external loans from donor countries, there should be no excuse by the Mahama-led NDC to fail.

God bless Ghana! God bless the Ghanaian Teacher!! God bless Kufuor!!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri
(Free SHS Ambassador) Official blog: (www.katakyie.com) [email protected] 0202471070 : 0264931361 : 0547851100

"Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success"

On 4 Oct 2013, at 11:49, Katakyie wrote:

Change the Educational Curriculum Now!

A lot of people, if not everyone has a talent but not everyone knows what they are talented in. Many will therefore live their lives not knowing their talents due to lack of opportunities to develop them. This ignorance, could probably account for the slow pace of Ghana's socio-economic development. At least the concept of individual differences teaches us that no two individuals or persons are equal. People differ in many aspects - height, beauty, intelligence, attitude, character, among other traits. Even twins born on the same day differ in one way or the other. It is against this backdrop that people usually assume that every individual is the controller of his/her own destiny.

God in His own wisdom, as John Mahama prefers to say, bequeathed to each individual a unique talent to make him live a prosperous life. Some of these talents are manifested in many fields of endeavour - music, education, politics, health, agriculture, chieftaincy, sports, entertainment etc. However, these God-given talents are not like mere seeds that could grow in the forest on their own. The talents within individuals could be unearthed and developed, only when children are given equal opportunities in life. During my Teaching Practice in the mid 1990's, I had the opportunity to ask my pupils what each of them wanted to do and become in future. It was indeed amazing to see the passion in the children as they provided answers to my question. And I know all those reading this piece are privy to some of those answers. But, what measures are being put in place by the government to ensure that our children's talents are discovered and nurtured so that they can fully maximise their capabilities?

In their quest to give intellectual property to their children to meet the challenges of life, parents have played a meaningful role in educational matters in this country. Successive governments, together with other stakeholders of education have also helped in this direction. But the objective of maximising every child's talent in Ghana is still a mirage. Ghana's education system, in spite of the fundamental changes and reforms that have taken place, has failed to yield the desired results. The curriculum, for instance, has failed to capture the abilities of children as more emphasis has been given to external examinations and literacy works. The upsurge of social vices, high unemployment rate, and poverty among the citizenry go to underscore the fact that millions of talents have gone waste. How could a fail in Mathematics or English Language in BECE, SSSCE/WASSCE or GCE, for instance, determine a student's destiny? But this is the plight of most JHS and senior high school graduates in this beloved country of ours.

Regrettably, the socio-economic damage being caused by this technical anomaly has not caught the attention of our political leaders. The political rush to revert the SHS duration from 4 years to 3 years by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration in 2009 has compounded the problem. The argument of inadequate educational infrastructure and extra cost to parents was untenable, to say the least. This is because the resources needed to provide such infrastructure are still in abundance. The high percentage pass rate of students who passed through the 4- year system justified the need for the policy to remain in place.

For children to develop their talents for the benefit of our country; and also for the purpose of education to be achieved in our circumstance, time factor is of essence in the formulation of any educational policy. As stated earlier, children are endowed with mixed abilities and as a result need more time to absorb certain educational instructions. Education should never be seen as an event, but rather a process that must be decoupled from mere schooling or literacy and numeracy.

In fact, for education to achieve its purpose of equipping people with skills and moulding their character, it is imperative to allow all junior high school graduates to access secondary education without any condition. This is because the basic education level, as it stands now, lacks the capacity to make our children reach their full potential. In addition, our educational curriculum, especially at the basic and secondary levels, is still dependent on protecting the interest of students with high Intelligent Quotients (IQ) at the expense of children with other similar abilities. As a nation, we have failed to recognise that every Ghanaian child, irrespective of his parents' social standing, is a potential president, surgeon, teacher, engineer, singer, dancer, and lawyer.

The neglect of children's abilities by many policy makers might have probably informed Dr. Howard Gardner, an American Psychologist to come out with his "Theory of Multiple Intelligences" in 1983. To Gardner, every child has at least one of his 8 intelligences. He argues that, the child who puts football or athletics at the expense of his books possesses bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence. Therefore he believes that such a child could be Ghana's Abedi Pele, Abu Duah, Igntious Gaisah, or Emmanuel Tuffuor in the near future. These were sports personalities who entertained Ghanaians with their footballing and athletic skills. Similarly, the child who sings a lot in the classroom or home might be seen to be disturbing the public ear, but genuinely such a child may be displaying his musical-rhythmic intelligence. He could become the next Amakye Dede or Daddy Lumba of Ghana. Also, the child who speaks a lot to the extent of poking his nose into the affairs of adults might be seen as a trouble child with that attitude, but little do we know that he might be exhibiting his linguistic intelligence. Such a child could grow up to be a either a lawyer, interpreter, radio presenter, news reader, or linguist. He is the next Dr. Mensah Otabil or Malik Kweku Baako.

In our educational pursuit in the past, we could all bear witnesses to children who were academically brilliant. Give them any mathematical or scientific problem/question and they would readily provide the right answers. To Gardner, such children are endowed with logical-mathematical intelligence, and could be surgeons, scientists, and doctors. They could step in the shoes of Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng of the Cardio-thoracic centre fame. In addition, there are other kids who show interest in pets, or farming activities. Such children possess naturalistic intelligence and they are potential poultry farmers. They are the future managers of many poultry farms in Ghana. Furthermore, there are millions of children who may not be good academically, but if you give such children crayons and pencils to draw any object, you would be astonished. They are endowed with visual/spatial intelligence. They are potential designers and artists. What is more refreshing about Gardner's Theory is that a child may possess a combination of two or more of the 8 Multiple Intelligences. For example, a particular child may be a good singer, dancer, and footballer at the same time such as Asamoah Gyan, the Captain of the senior national team, the Black Stars.

From the above, it is clearly evident that, as far as human contribution to making the World a better place to live is concerned, no child is absolutely useless and none of them should be seen as such. It is thus the responsibility of every parent to team up with teachers to nurture these raw talents of children to shape the country's future.

In winding down, I call upon the Curriculum Research and Development Division (CRDD) of Ghana to come out with educational curriculum that could be relevant to the needs of the country. Similarly, the government should make available to our schools, modern equipment and the necessary resources. In this way, we would be able to produce graduates who could solve the basic environmental, social, and economic problems bedevilling mother Ghana. We cannot leave any child behind in this technological world on the basis of the person's inability to cope with academic work. For it is morally, religiously, legally, and technically wrong to allow my daughter, though a good singer, to terminate her education at the basic level just because she cannot speak and write good English or solve Mathematical problems. It is high time priority attention was given to Technical and Vocational education to give equal educational opportunities to the future leaders.

God bless Ghana! God bless Ghanaian Children

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri
(Free SHS Ambassador) Official blog: (www.katakyie.com) [email protected] 0202471070 : 0264931361 : 0547851100

"Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success"

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang
Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, © 2013

The author has 225 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KatakyieKwameOpokuAgyemang

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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