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Opinions Tue, 22 Aug 2017

Let's support Education Minister to transform the sector

Among the several ministerial portfolios in Ghana, the Education Ministry arguably remains the toughest sector in government. This is due to the huge number of employees and agencies under it, and the difficulty in training and equipping people with skills to fill the manpower requirements of the country.

Thus, looking at the numerous challenges bedeviling Ghana's Education Sector - infrastructural gap, poor condition of service of teachers, inadequate teaching and learning materials, high school fees, among others, all eyes were on the new President, Nana Akufo-Addo as regards who would get the nod to oversee the implementation of the NPP's flagship policy of free senior high education this year.

It was a considered opinion that, the mantle would fall on someone who has passed through the profession as a teacher. Interestingly and surprisingly, Hon. Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, the MP for Manhyia South, a medical doctor was given the nod. Whilst some people were skeptical about his capabilities to handle the Education Ministry, I strongly believed he had everything under the sun to bring the desired changes in the sector.

Hon. Napo, as affectionately called, together with his other two Education Ministers, has worked diligently since he was appointed early this year. In fact, he goes down in history as the only sector Minister to have directly engaged all stakeholders - Directors of Education, Heads of Senior High Schools, Matrons, Accountants and Bursars of the various SHSs across the country on how to improve on quality of education and how the implementation of the free Senior High School would be successful.

Besides, he has made a full presentation on the free SHS through his recent media encounter to remove all doubts about the policy. Thus, as a good leader, he has carved out his visions clearly, laid bare the challenges, asked for inputs from stakeholders to remedy the situation, set a road map with the view to achieving positive results.

For those who follow him, you could see that, Hon. Dr. Opoku Prempeh has talked about WAEC and examination leakages, accountability, teacher professionalism, performance, absenteeism, numeracy and literacy proficiency at the lower primary, licensing of teachers and poor academic results in the Education Sector.

Unfortunately, he has been mocked, insulted and faced threat of removal from office by teachers. The media has twisted every statement he has made to suit their whims and caprices. For my money, the threats and actions of the enemy media are premature.

How could a professional teacher, who wants an improvement in his condition of service, salary, teaching/learning materials, develop professionally and protect the image of the profession be afraid of changes and innovations?

In Ghana, the fact still remains that the teaching profession has become a stepping stone for many a graduate from our tertiary and secondary schools. Every Tom, Dick and Harry enters the profession anyhow, but this does not happen in other professions like medicine, nursing, legal and engineering. Some teachers are making it appear that everything with regard to teaching is perfect. But, the reality is that, so many teachers are not doing the job as expected. We still have teachers who drink and go to class, teachers who impregnate school children, heads of educational institutions who siphon the tax payer's money, teachers who don't attend classes and others who don't teach well.

Therefore, whilst appealing to the Sector Minister to address the educational problems such as payment of arrears (salary, promotion), poor condition of service, and poor remuneration, we, as professional teachers must examine our shortfalls and improve upon them. "Mpanin se, woretu akura fo no, na woretu mmomone nso fo". It is through the collective efforts of all stakeholders - government, teachers, GES, students, parents, traditional authorities, religious bodies and NGOs that could help bring the desired results in the education sector.

In winding down, I would implore all teachers to give the sector Minister, a space by engaging him on regular basis and not confronting him with insults and threats. I have been engaging the Hon. Minister privately on several educational issues and I can attest to the fact that, his conscience is clear and there is enough potential in him to transform the sector.

God bless Ghana! God bless the NPP!! God bless Napo!!!

Columnist: Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang