Ghana education service and their tin-gods of .....

Thu, 3 Apr 2014 Source: Mensah, Kwabena

headmasters and headteachers

There is a certain phenomenon about the Ghana Education Service that baffles every teacher in the profession and that is the kind of authority that the Service has either given to the headmasters and head teachers or that they have assumed that authority to mesmerize their colleague teachers who through no fault of theirs have to work with them as subordinates because we cannot all be leaders yet GES is completely silent and deaf about this infringement on personal freedoms as enshrined in the constitution. Such treatment causes teachers to experience a kind of existential situations, insecurity and lowered self-esteem.

Many people would be surprised to hear that the teachers who spend each day working to prevent bullying among students in schools can themselves be victims of bullying in the workplace. Don’t be surprised; What if the biggest bully in the school is the head teacher? There can be psychological bullying, like dropping statements that cause stress for a teacher at inappropriate times. It can mean undermining the efforts of teachers and jeopardizing their success. It can involve threatening and abuse of power.

In collaboration with the education officers these heads violate GES policy, unfairly evaluate teachers, denying professional development opportunities, and engaging in deceptive and dishonest conduct. Abusive heads by virtue of their mistreatment, intimidate teachers into submission and silence: this in turn requires that teachers make professional and ethical compromises.

It is no magic to imagine the consequences of mistreatment meted out to teachers by their heads. It will definitely lead to collateral damage to a school: widespread fear, resentment, distrust and poor morale. Heads who are bullies often believe strongly that they are very capable leaders, and are unable to distinguish between the qualities of good leadership and bullying. When teacher motivation rests in fear of the head teacher, it is not sustainable.

Broadly speaking teachers experience a variety of common everyday feelings: they feel trapped, become fearful and angry, pre-occupied, stressed and traumatized: feeling corrupted and guilty: and feeling a diminished sense of professionalism.

This traumatic situation is important to me because it has more or less become the norm in the society today where the head teacher finds an excuse to pick an issue with a particular teacher so as to pave way for him axe the teacher who then is released to God knows where to the utter disregard of the head; laughing all the way home to his family because he has the power. As an educationist myself who has gone through the experience before, the tell-tale signs are always there to see as regards who the bully is. Usually one identifies a head who is a bully by the following behavior

• Good teachers are being let go and weak teachers are being brought in. A bully head needs teachers who can be controlled. Teachers who stand up to them are dangerous.

• A pattern of attack on an initiative. Is an initiative consistently interrupted or questioned by a head teacher? Who is in charge of the initiative? Is this teacher being bullied by the head teacher?

• Is there a head who is not openly welcomed to collaborate with the others heads? Why is that? Often other principals are fully aware that someone in their midst is a bully – and they steer clear.

Not surprisingly the GES as usual is playing the ostrich behaving as if nothing is going on. See no evil, hear no evil. Victims understand the power structure and the preferential treatment their “model heads” receives from the office, and they are afraid to complain.

• Good people leave. Effective teachers will not stick around in this environment.

• Senior management loses credibility when they unknowingly favour and promote the work of bullies.

• Future leaders in the building need to take time to re-build trust, which means a longer time before issues of student achievement are addressed. Children don’t have this kind of time to waste.

• Desperate bullied teachers may behave unprofessionally out of frustration.

Bully heads have long-term effects on schools throughout the community. For me, the solution to this is that there should be a paradigm shifts in the way the GES go about protecting these “angels” Supervisory Officers need solid training on how to recognize when leadership has gone wrong. Teachers need a safe method of reporting bullying, without fear of retribution. And when this is done the mistreatment of teachers that take place in schools in the country may come to an end to help promote human rights and a better environment for academic work for both teachers and students. It’s unfortunate that the central region which is noted for academic excellence is also the headquarters of such behavior. When teachers are bold to drag a head to the courts sanity may prevail. Let’s test the law.

By Kwabena Mensah


Columnist: Mensah, Kwabena