18.05.2005 General News

Strike Cripples Accra Schools

By Graphic
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THE industrial stand-off between the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) has crippled academic work in senior secondary schools in Accra, with the effect yet to be felt in the other regions.

The mass disruption of academic work is the result of a strong link that has emerged between NAGRAT and the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and a show of solidarity by GNAT during this strike period.

Conservatively, there are about 15 NAGRAT members to one GNAT member in Greater Accra schools.

At the Nungua Secondary School, for instance, out of a staff strength of 55, only three are GNAT members, while at St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School out of 53 staff members, there are only four GNAT members.

While work in most of the senior secondary schools in Accra has been disrupted as a result of the strike by NAGRAT, Kumasi and other regional capitals are yet to feel the impact because of the late re-opening of schools in the regions.

The Greater Accra Regional President of the Conference of Headmasters of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS), Mr Samuel Ofori Adjei, who described the strike as “worrying” said an emergency meeting would be called to discuss how best the issue could be resolved.

Eight days into the strike action, described by the National Labour Commission (NLC) as illegal, activities in most of the schools in Accra have been paralysed, resulting in students loitering or engaging in recreational activities.

During a visit to some of the schools in Accra yesterday, some of the heads were reluctant to comment on the issue but expressed disquiet about the effect of the action of NAGRAT on teaching and learning.

While some said the issue was a sensitive one, others openly discussed the devastating effect the action was having on academic work.

At the Presbyterian Boys' Secondary School, Legon (PRESEC), academic work had stalled because all the NAGRAT members were observing the strike.

The Headmaster of the school, Mr J.J. Asare, said although some of the teachers reported for work, “they are not participating in any academic activity”. He, however, expressed the hope that an immediate solution would be found to the problem to allow for smooth academic work.

The Headmistress of Accra Girls Secondary, Ms Veronica Acapame, explained that although all teachers in the school were graduates, not all of them belonged to NAGRAT.

She said, however, that the few who belonged to NAGRAT were observing the strike but noted that the real effect of the action would be felt next week, since schools had just re-opened.

When the Graphic reached the St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School at about 1 p.m., some of the students were found playing football in one of the classrooms, while the rest were engaged in other games.

The Headmaster, Mr Frank Bebli, in answer to whether or not NAGRAT members were observing the strike, pointed to the students who were engaged in playing football in the classroom and said “action speaks louder than words.”

Ms D.D.O. Welbeck, Headmistress of Osu PRESEC, was hesitant to comment on the issue, describing it as “a very sensitive national issue”. When pressed further, Ms Welbeck asked the reporter to wait while she made a telephone call, apparently to her immediate ”boss” for clarification.

Afterwards, she said, “no comment, you will have to contact our head office in Accra for issues concerning GNAT or NAGRAT.”

The NAGRAT, on May 6, began a nationwide strike to protest against the breach of contract between it and the education authorities.

The NLC directed the teachers to call off their strike immediately, while the Ghana Education Service (GES) warned them to resume work within 10 days or consider themselves to have vacated their posts.

A meeting scheduled for last Wednesday at the offices of the NLC in Accra was called off at the instance of NAGRAT, whose officials said they could not honour the invitation to the meeting because some members of the executive were far from Accra.

Mr K. Danso Acheampong, the Vice-Chairman of the NLC, said in an interview that in acknowledging receipt of the NAGRAT letter calling for a postponement of the meeting, it made it clear to NAGRAT to call off its strike before next Wednesday's meeting.

Explaining further the demands of the new Labour Act, Mr Acheampong conceded that since it was not going to be easy to get everybody to appreciate the new law, it was important for all to get adjusted to the new order of doing things, especially in industrial relations.

According to Mr Acheampong, all parties, including employers such as the government and all workers, unionised or ununionised, were supposed to respect the law passed by Parliament.

He called on the media to join the campaign to educate all stakeholders to abide by the law so that the rule of law would be made to prevail.

Mr Acheampong noted that the NLC had been empowered to enforce the regulations but said since the Labour Act was a new creation, it was prepared to help change the old attitudes so that their behaviour would conform to the new labour rules.

He emphasised, however, that the NLC would not hesitate to apply the law if all persuasions failed to get people to conform.

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