The Director General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Prof. Kwasi Opoku Amankwa, has announced the disbursement of GHC 55.3 million to Senior High Schools (SHS) and Technical Institutions for the provision of academic interventions for students.
According to him, the amount will be paid to both teaching and non-teaching staff as an incentive for extra work.
Inasmuch as the government and the education ministry deserve some plaudits for this initiative of relieving parents of the burden of paying for extra classes, it must be emphasized that teachers in the Basic Schools are increasingly becoming dissatisfied and feel always neglected by government as regards incentives for teachers. Nine out of ten Basic School teachers would want to move to the SHS because apart from the absence of incentive packages for the basic school teachers, they are also saddled with intimidations in various forms from the Ministry of Education.
Is it that Basic School teachers do not provide academic intervention for their pupils? Teaching in the Basic Schools is not a piece of cake; it takes commitment, dedication, hard work and patience to make a Kindergarten pupil read and write letters of the alphabet and to prepare a JHS student with no textbooks and other materials for the SHS. In spite of the GES directive forbidding teachers from the organisation of extra classes and the collection of monies for that purpose, most Basic School teachers still find time outside their school schedule to teach and prepare their students for the SHS at no cost.
It is only in Ghana that books and school uniforms are provided for SHS students for free by government while chalk, registers and textbooks are in acute shortage at the Basic Schools, a classical example of a concrete floor on a storey with a clay base. Teachers are rather forced to improvise teaching and learning materials (which should have been provided by government) outside school hours, yet attracting no incentives. Still fresh in our memories is Augustine Kusi, an ICT teacher at Assign Asamankese D/A Primary School who had improvised a computer mouse with stone only to incur the wrath of the District Director of Education, Mrs Sally Nelly Coleman who claimed that his conduct had disgraced the school and district at large.
Few weeks ago, some teachers in the Basic Schools had to resort to the writing of examination questions on the chalkboard following the GES directive not to charge students printing fees. With the multiplicities of challenges associated with this stone age practice, the Ministry of Education unremorsefully described the situation as "unnecessary dramatisation", pointing that it was not the first time examination questions were being written on the chalkboard. In all these, Basic School teachers are blamed and hounded by the Ministry of Education for poor performances of pupils and threatens to sack and revoke licences of teachers whose pupils underperform.
Teaching in the Basic Schools is really unattractive! This accounts for why most Basic School teachers are hell bent on moving to the Senior High Schools.
The Ministry of Education, while trying to improve the quality of education at the Senior High Schools, should also not lose focus on the Basic Schools. Pay the Basic School teachers arrears, build and renovate their dilapidated school structures, stock them with adequate teaching and learning materials, and extend the incentives to them to retain them and make them happier to reduce their mass exodus to the SHS and elsewhere.
If the pasture is greener at the feet of Basic School teachers, there would be no need seeking the same greener pastures in the Senior High Schools.
THE AUTHOR IS AN ESSAYIST WITH INTEREST IN EDUCATIONAL ISSUES AND ANALYSIS AND A TEACHER WITH MANY YEARS OF TEACHING EXPERIENCE.
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