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Letter from the President: Don’t gag the teachers

Mon, 22 Oct 2007 Source: Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I should have ‘said something’ about this issue a couple of weeks ago. But other pressing issues engaged my attention and now I deem it necessary to call the Education Service to order for its flagrant violation of people’s right to free speech.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard about the service’s heavy-handed handling of teachers who have dared to stray off the official line. First, there was the story of the Metro Education Director of Accra who openly declared that he had no faith that the educational reforms will succeed because he hadn’t been provided with the necessary logistics. The Education Service quickly issued him with a threatening memo, claiming that he had demonstrated a lack of commitment to his job of helping implement the educational reforms. But for media reportage on the threats, he would have lost his job by now. He still has his job but only God knows how he feels now and whether he’d be as honest as he was when he spoke about the educational reforms a few weeks ago.

Then came the other startling news just a couple of weeks ago that the Education Service had demoted and transferred a hapless head teacher in Tema who told journalists that the ‘first day at school’ for the current academic year saw a somewhat abysmal enrolment compared to previous years. Her comments suggested that the ‘my first day at school’ programme was not as successful in increasing school enrolment as it had been cracked up to be. Days after granting the interview, she was issued with marching orders to move to a lower grade in a different school.

Countrymen and women, I think that we have a lion at the helm of the Education Service. He’s called Bannermens and I don’t like him. I don’t like the way he talks, I don’t like the way he thinks, I don’t like the way he deals with his staff. I think he’s this ‘Joe Impre’ character who is too keen on satisfying his bosses instead of doing his job to the best of his abilities. People like that are under-performers who see themselves as having performed well only when they’ve satisfied the whims and caprices of their bosses. He came to my attention at the start of the educational reforms in September. Whiles everyone was complaining and expressing concern about the rush to introduce a new educational system, Bannermens conceded in a radio interview that about 40 percent of basic schools in the country have no classroom blocks and school is therefore held under trees. So the journalist put it to him that it was wrong for the education service to expect pupils to be academically inclined and perform well in class when they are forced to study under trees. His immediate response was: “but people can still enjoy life under trees.”

Imagine my shock! I asked myself, “who is this gonzo? Has he got an office? Is it under a tree?” I wasn’t surprised at all to find out later that he has a very spacious airconditioned office, where he is attended to by at least two secretaries. Despite the fact that he’s surrounded by luxury, he is quite perceptive enough to know that pupils can “enjoy life under trees”. So I started thinking that, perhaps, we should move his office from the headquarters of the education service to the shades under the large ‘Onyina’ tree at the Ofankor barrier.

As I was brooding over the idea, news came about his heavy-handed petulance in that threatening memo to the Accra Metro director of education. Shortly thereafter, he was coming down hard on a head teacher in Tema, who was so disturbed by her demotion that she fell into shock.

Countrymen and women, I have had enough of this Bannermens guy. Someone should advice him that even though we don’t pay teachers well, they are very dear to my heart. They have suffered long enough and I don’t want a sycophant like him to be making life more difficult for them than it already is. Someone should tell him that his conduct so far has been as annoying as it has been unconstitutional.

All 20 million of us in Sikaman have agreed that we will foster a culture of free speech. And so people have a right to speak their minds without anyone hounding them for expressing their opinions – even if they are ill-thought out and contrary to the official position. It’s a fact that we are mostly a bunch of hypocrites who don’t like to face the truth. That our educational system is a sham is no secret but most of us do not like to admit it. If our teachers have decided to speak their minds, the least we can do is to commend them – not for some sycophant bent on satisfying his political paymasters to come down hard on them like a ton of bricks. Bannermens should know that this country is moving forward – with or without him. He can choose to go stay under some tree somewhere but if he doesn’t change his ways, he will be sacked – by the very people he’s so bent on pleasing for they know when a sycophant has outlived his usefulness.

To our teachers and all those who stand up and speak for the truth, I salute you. You are the true patriots. They may threaten you but don’t let them scare you into peddling nation-wrecking falsehood. One thing I know for sure is that we will only move forward when we make honest admissions about our shortcomings and map out strategies for overcoming them. And our teachers are showing the way. It’s good. They are the ones who have been charged with the responsibility of teaching our children to be honest and patriotic. They are leading by example and we need to commend. Let’s support them while we hoot at the like of the lion called Bannermens.

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I should have ‘said something’ about this issue a couple of weeks ago. But other pressing issues engaged my attention and now I deem it necessary to call the Education Service to order for its flagrant violation of people’s right to free speech.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard about the service’s heavy-handed handling of teachers who have dared to stray off the official line. First, there was the story of the Metro Education Director of Accra who openly declared that he had no faith that the educational reforms will succeed because he hadn’t been provided with the necessary logistics. The Education Service quickly issued him with a threatening memo, claiming that he had demonstrated a lack of commitment to his job of helping implement the educational reforms. But for media reportage on the threats, he would have lost his job by now. He still has his job but only God knows how he feels now and whether he’d be as honest as he was when he spoke about the educational reforms a few weeks ago.

Then came the other startling news just a couple of weeks ago that the Education Service had demoted and transferred a hapless head teacher in Tema who told journalists that the ‘first day at school’ for the current academic year saw a somewhat abysmal enrolment compared to previous years. Her comments suggested that the ‘my first day at school’ programme was not as successful in increasing school enrolment as it had been cracked up to be. Days after granting the interview, she was issued with marching orders to move to a lower grade in a different school.

Countrymen and women, I think that we have a lion at the helm of the Education Service. He’s called Bannermens and I don’t like him. I don’t like the way he talks, I don’t like the way he thinks, I don’t like the way he deals with his staff. I think he’s this ‘Joe Impre’ character who is too keen on satisfying his bosses instead of doing his job to the best of his abilities. People like that are under-performers who see themselves as having performed well only when they’ve satisfied the whims and caprices of their bosses. He came to my attention at the start of the educational reforms in September. Whiles everyone was complaining and expressing concern about the rush to introduce a new educational system, Bannermens conceded in a radio interview that about 40 percent of basic schools in the country have no classroom blocks and school is therefore held under trees. So the journalist put it to him that it was wrong for the education service to expect pupils to be academically inclined and perform well in class when they are forced to study under trees. His immediate response was: “but people can still enjoy life under trees.”

Imagine my shock! I asked myself, “who is this gonzo? Has he got an office? Is it under a tree?” I wasn’t surprised at all to find out later that he has a very spacious airconditioned office, where he is attended to by at least two secretaries. Despite the fact that he’s surrounded by luxury, he is quite perceptive enough to know that pupils can “enjoy life under trees”. So I started thinking that, perhaps, we should move his office from the headquarters of the education service to the shades under the large ‘Onyina’ tree at the Ofankor barrier.

As I was brooding over the idea, news came about his heavy-handed petulance in that threatening memo to the Accra Metro director of education. Shortly thereafter, he was coming down hard on a head teacher in Tema, who was so disturbed by her demotion that she fell into shock.

Countrymen and women, I have had enough of this Bannermens guy. Someone should advice him that even though we don’t pay teachers well, they are very dear to my heart. They have suffered long enough and I don’t want a sycophant like him to be making life more difficult for them than it already is. Someone should tell him that his conduct so far has been as annoying as it has been unconstitutional.

All 20 million of us in Sikaman have agreed that we will foster a culture of free speech. And so people have a right to speak their minds without anyone hounding them for expressing their opinions – even if they are ill-thought out and contrary to the official position. It’s a fact that we are mostly a bunch of hypocrites who don’t like to face the truth. That our educational system is a sham is no secret but most of us do not like to admit it. If our teachers have decided to speak their minds, the least we can do is to commend them – not for some sycophant bent on satisfying his political paymasters to come down hard on them like a ton of bricks. Bannermens should know that this country is moving forward – with or without him. He can choose to go stay under some tree somewhere but if he doesn’t change his ways, he will be sacked – by the very people he’s so bent on pleasing for they know when a sycophant has outlived his usefulness.

To our teachers and all those who stand up and speak for the truth, I salute you. You are the true patriots. They may threaten you but don’t let them scare you into peddling nation-wrecking falsehood. One thing I know for sure is that we will only move forward when we make honest admissions about our shortcomings and map out strategies for overcoming them. And our teachers are showing the way. It’s good. They are the ones who have been charged with the responsibility of teaching our children to be honest and patriotic. They are leading by example and we need to commend. Let’s support them while we hoot at the like of the lion called Bannermens.

Excellently yours,
J. A. Fukuor
(fukuor@gmail.com)

Columnist: Daily Dispatch