The Ghana Education Service GES) has given striking members of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) 10 days to return to the classrooms or consider themselves sacked.
Mr Michael Nsowah, the acting director-general of the service, who issued the ultimatum in Accra yesterday, was invoking a clause in the GES conditions of service which provides that teachers who stay out of the classroom for more than 10 days will be considered to have vacated their posts.
In a defiant response, however, the leadership of NAGRAT swiftly dismissed the ultimatum and affirmed that the industrial action would continue till all their demands were met.
NAGRAT president, Kwame Alorvi, questioned the basis of the acting director-general's order and insisted that the strike action was perfectly legal and within the rights of the aggrieved teachers.
On May 6, NAGRAT began a nationwide strike to protest against what the association described as a "breach of contract between us and the education authorities.” That action was first condemned by the National Labour Commission (NLC), whose chairman, Mr J.A. Aryitey, described it as illegal.
But yesterday's order and the reaction it elicited have deepened the crisis, pitting the more than 10,000 members of the association against the education service, with the fate of over 200,000 students in second-cycle institutions and polytechnics at stake.
Neither party would predict how long it would last or what would happen after the 10-day ultimatum but Mr Nsowah hinted, “For us, what the law says regarding the vacation of post is what we will comply with.”