LE-ROY LEVI MC NARA, Headmaster of ST KIZITO R/C '1' JSS, Accra, examines the decision by Minister of Education, Hon., Yaw Osafo Marfo, to cancel study leave with pay policy for teacher with the excuse that it has become a drain on the economy. Below is his well thought- out views on this issue.
THE GES NEW 'study leave with pay' policy, “the quota system” under which teachers are granted 'study leave with pay' to pursue various courses of study in tertiary institutions has become a cause for worry in recent times and cannot go without comment.
Under this system, a total of 3,000 teachers are expected to be granted study leave with pay to pursue courses that have been designated as priority areas for the GES. All other teachers, such as those who obtain admission but fall outside the 3000 blessed few of the GES quota, as well as those pursuing courses not captured under the priority subjects must as a matter of principle, “fend for themselves”.
Does this not amount to a subtle way of saying: “No 'Study Leave with Pay' for teachers in the GES?” How am I, for instance, supposed to know that if I apply for study leave with pay, I would be granted or not even if the course I chose is among the so-called priority courses?
So if I apply for and gain admission into a tertiary institution, and I am thereafter cruelly denied study leave as a result of the MOES and GES's 'intercourse of connivance' against the already poorly paid and low esteemed teacher, what should I do? Abandon the course and go back to teach so that all the financial and other resources expended to gain admission would be wasted, and I would be back to “square zero” and not even square one? Or pursue the programme from my own resources? And which resources at all if I may ask, when the salary given to teachers at the end of the month is not even enough to cater for the month? Would it be by magic or occultism that a teacher would be expected to save enough from the meager salary to finance the very costly tertiary education? Won't this amount to asking the crab for blood? Oh GES! Oh MOES!
What criteria or criterion do officials of GES use to select “residents of the blessed quota land?” And how would that criterion be devoid of favouritism, discrimination, bribery, and other 'hanky-panky'(s)?
Ask me! In fact, not only me but also the students “in the wilderness threatened by study leave without pay” (I mean those already on campus without pay and others) who recently embarked on a demonstration. They, as well as members of the public, would want to know the answers to my concerns!
Another fact related to this quota system which is a cause for worry is the designation of some courses as priority areas while the rest not mentioned on their list are “non entity courses”. It would interest you to learn, dear reader, that Educational Psychology as a subject, the study or otherwise of which is a fundamental determinant of who is a professional teacher and who is not, is absent from the list of priority courses. Is it being suggested that we have come to a point in our educational development that no more first-degree or M.Phil holders of Educational Psychology are needed? Have the GES and Ministry of Education suddenly lost sight of the fact that Psychology is the bedrock of formal education and instruction?
Dear reader it is not only Educational Psychology but French, English, Maths, Social Studies, Economics, and other subjects like these are also absent at the postgraduate level!
Alas! Whither are we drifting? Are we safe in Ghana? That because of some meager salary that would be paid to teachers on study leave, we tell the whole world that subjects, such as the above, are not priority areas for us at the postgraduate level? Save us father God, for we do not know what we are doing!
The next nagging question that I would want to address is the attempt to get us all to believe that as many as fifteen thousand teachers apply for study leave with pay every year. This would seem that under the previous system where GES granted study leave with pay on wholesale, it 'lost' as many as 15000 teachers to study leave with pay every year? Incredible! This situation, the Education Ministry and GES contend, does not only over bloat the budget of the GES and MOES, but also creates a lot of vacant classrooms.
I am not an expert and stand to be corrected, but at least I do know for a fact that GES always requires all those teachers who apply for admission, to fill the study leave forms way ahead of time. This is because of the fact that not all would be 'study leave applicants' actually end up being granted admission anyway. In fact, since many teachers apply to more than one institution for admission, you may find such applicants filling multiple study leave forms. Yet, not all the supposed 15,000 applicants would gain admission into the tertiary institutions, so GES would not be required to grant study leave with pay to this number of applicants as is being portrayed. Wherein lies the claim of over bloating of the budget then?
Besides, some 'A' level and SSSCE holders who pursue B.Ed courses at UCC and others of similar status from UNEW, are duly qualified professional teachers upon completing their study, and they usually seek to be recruited by GES to teach. GES usually either refuses to do so or drags its feet over this, with the excuse that MOES has placed a ban on the recruitment of teachers. A typical example of this category of trained teachers that I am talking about is the 2001 year group of B.Ed. students from UCC who were given a hell of time when they sought to be recruited into the GES. How possible? Is it not incredible, that the very MOES and GES who in one breath complain that they always have to grapple with a teacher shortage problem due to pursuit of tertiary education, in another breath have professional teachers who literally beg to be recruited as teachers and who are rejected? Does the GES really lack teachers annually as is being claimed?
In fact many are those who callously believe that teachers should not even be granted study leave with pay at all. Some of these called into the GTV 'Breakfast Show' of Tuesday, 26th April, 2004 to articulate this view. These fellows argued that teachers don't come back to the GES after pursuing tertiary education. Let those people tell me how many of these teachers leave the GES and where they go? With the present unavailability of employment, it is not even that easy to leave the teaching service to take up other jobs. Otherwise many of us would have been long gone. Could the minister direct the various Regional Education offices to conduct a census to find out the number of teachers from tertiary institutions who literally struggle to be re-posted to GES every year and those who actually get re-posted?
I must say here that I served as Local and National Secretary for GNAT on campuses when I was at UCC. In my final year, I personally issued the GES re-posting forms for teachers. This was when people who were initially not teachers but who had become teachers because they had read Bachelor of Education courses were competing with the regular study leave-with -pay -beneficiaries to complete these forms in order to be posted for the first time. I am not by this saying that teachers don't leave the GES. At least a few do but the greater majority, of which I am one come back to GES.
If a few teachers therefore fail to return to teach, would that be a credible basis to say “No 'Study Leave With Pay' for teachers in GES” as those people and the Minister for Education seemed to be saying? In any case, if teachers are under bond to serve a number of years from study leave before leaving the GES and some do not do this, is it not an indictment of the monitoring systems of the GES? Should we be asking that the system be improved or be asking that the whole study leave with pay scheme be scrapped? I am sure the anti-study leave advocates who were talking so callously do not have friends or relatives who are teachers. If they did, those friends or relatives would have helped them to appreciate the plight of teachers in Ghana.
Meanwhile, let it not even be misconstrued that teachers who leave the GES are only those who have gone through tertiary education. But the question one should be asking is “why do those teachers leave the GES for other jobs anyway?” The answer is obvious. I need not say it. Which well-paid worker leaves his well-paying job for other jobs? If you should conduct a census of the teachers who would genuinely remain as teachers if they had the opportunity to get a better paying job, I don't think you would get many. I, the writer of this article, enjoyable though I find teaching, would certainly leave if I get a better paying job. Trust me! Why should I remain a teacher and remain a pauper for life for that matter? Why?
Let the Minister tackle issues such as paying teachers very well and give them other benefits such as allowances for accommodation, risk, overtime, medical expenses, and scholarship for teachers children among others, and see how many very qualified people would troop back to the GES. And how many very brilliant students would struggle to enter into teacher training institutions?
Just take a look at how many people, both “big” and “small,” struggle to be MPs and you would understand what I am trying to say! This is certainly because being an MP comes with several monetary and other benefits not available to other people.
Therefore, it will remain a fact that not until the MOES and government find it necessary to pay the professional who trains all other professionals very well, teachers will continue to seek opportunities to leave the teaching service. That I can assure you!
In any case, study leave with pay in the GES means only a payment of the meagre monthly salary to the beneficiary teacher and nothing more, unlike what obtains in other professions where all fees are paid, books bought, accommodation and transport expenses among others catered for. During the period that the teacher would teach to qualify for study leave with pay; s/he would have rendered invaluable service to mother Ghana and gotten poorly paid for it. So would it be too much to ask if as a small package to encourage him/her is paid, especially when it is nothing more than the same meagre salary to support him/her complete further education so as to become a more valuable asset to mother Ghana?
If any one from GES and MOES is listening, let him take it from me that, for far too long, the two bodies in their “intercourse of connivance” have exploited and done so much damage to the image and personality of teachers in this country and must begin to sit up. Enough is certainly enough!
It must be stated emphatically that this quota system with the study leave with pay is totally unacceptable and certainly not in the interest of mother Ghana. It will lead to a stagnation of the emergence of experts from the various subjects taught in schools, who could be very useful policy framers tomorrow. The earlier it is withdrawn the better for mother Ghana.
GNAT has already indicated its intention to embark on a protest march against what the GES and MOES are doing about the study leave with pay issue. I would encourage NAGRAT and all other categories of teachers to join in the fight. This fight is our fight. LET all other well meaning Ghanaians join in voicing the plight of teachers loud enough for government to hear. Teachers of Ghana certainly deserve better.