Lift Ban on Teacher Recruitment Now!

Sat, 30 Jan 2016 Source: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

It is no gainsaying that inadequate teachers in our classrooms had negatively affected academic standards in both first and second cycle institutions in Ghana. The situation in the remotest parts of this country is even worrisome as few teachers handle large class sizes making class control and marking of pupils' scripts burdensome to teachers. Although, successive governments have spent billions of Ghana cedis in recruitment, training, and retention of teachers, yet a large proportion of trained teachers continue to leave the profession either for lucrative jobs in Ghana or for further studies abroad. This, has no doubt, affected teacher:pupil ratio and consequently, the quality of education.

According to the Ghana Education Service (GES) bulletin of 2014, there is currently a teacher deficit of 60,000 at the basic education level alone. This deficit is aside of the myriad of problems - infrastructure, logistics etc facing the education sector in the country. It is no wonder that Ghanaians continue to be skeptical about the products being churned out of our schools as quality education continues to be undermined.

For the past few months, the GES in collaboration with Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) have embarked on series of actions to weed out fake teachers from the education service. This pragmatic action by the GES stems from the countless number of people who have maneuvered their way into the teaching profession using other people's certificates. At Kukuom in the Asunafo District in the Brong-Ahafo, for instance, over 30 of such fake teachers were identified.

Whilst commending the GES in its attempt to ensure that only qualified teachers teach our children in schools, it is mind-boggling to have an embargo placed on teacher recruitment at the same time. Part of a memo signed by the then Director-General of GES, Ms Benedicta Naana Biney reads; "With effect from August 20, 2013, only graduates from the public Colleges of Education and teachers on study leave with pay should be posted to the schools". The above implies that, graduates with Bachelor of Education (BEd), or Diploma in Basic Education from the University of Education, Winneba and the University Cape Coast who were hitherto not on the GES pay roll cannot be recruited into the GES. Other affected teachers are graduates from the private Colleges of Education; SHS graduates who did the Distance Education programme in Basic Education on their own; former teachers who left the profession to pursue academic courses in education with the view to upgrading their knowledge and skills (study leave without pay); as well as university and polytechnic graduates (non-professional teachers) who have shown keen interest in teaching. In the 2013/14 academic year, the above category of teachers who were given appointment letters two months before the GES memo was issued were asked to return them. Such teachers have never been recalled.

The questions that readily come to mind are:

• Why should a graduate teacher remain unemployed or be denied the opportunity to serve his country, when the tax payers' money had been spent on his educational training?

• Could it be a bad idea for a professional teacher to use his own resources to improve his academic knowledge and teaching skills by pursuing further education?

• Again, has Ghana produced enough teachers to meet the increasing enrollment in our schools?

• Assuming without admitting that the current NDC government's dream of building 200 senior high schools by the end of 2016 materialises, where would the GES get teachers to teach the students?

• Finally, how convincing is the NDC government's argument of addressing youth unemployment in the country, if graduate teachers cannot be absorbed in the GES?

For me, until Ghanaians get the right answers for the questions posed above, the victims of this wicked policy would see the Mahama-led NDC government as very insensitive. Education is pre-requisite for socio-economic and political development of any country, including Ghana. Hence, every effort must be made to remove any barrier that has the tendency to affect it negatively. It is my hope that the newly-appointed Director-General of GES, Jacob Kor, Ministry of Education, Parliament, parents, Teacher Unions, Religious Organisations, and the media would treat this issue with urgency.

Indeed, if it's true that the embargo on teacher recruitment was one of the many IMF conditionalities, then this government got it all wrong. I would therefore urge all the victims of this bad policy to contact me ASAP so that together, we could put pressure on president Mahama to extend his 'Guantanamo compassion' on us.

God bless Ghana! God bless Unemployed Graduate Teachers!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri


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Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku