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Teacher Kwadwo: Teaching the education service to learn the wrong way

Teacher Kwadwo Photo Teacher Kwadwo was sacked by the GES for misconduct

Tue, 21 Dec 2021 Source: Martin Elorm Dogbo

Until his alleged dismissal from the Ghana Education Service (GES), many Ghanaians including myself got to know the real name of Teacher Kwadwo—Michael Owusu Afriyie.

I have been an admirer of the young teacher through his comedy skits and his educational philanthropy to his school.

Not many Ghanaian teachers will want to be like that award-winning Kenyan teacher who was awarded for his intense philanthropy to his school pupils. If we should assess the most consistent complaints of Ghanaian teachers in terms of meagre salary, it would have taken about hundreds of teacher contributions with the additional support of their unions to achieve the philanthropy Teacher Kwadwo had embarked on so far for his school and other schools in his district (that is if we are to believe the words heard from his interviews).

Well, I am not here to exhaust all my energy talking about a teacher’s philanthropy; there are more current issues like destructive criticisms to the GES and eventually his dismissal.

Teacher Kwadwo’s criticisms of the GES runs from poor conditions of the school, if not service, as well as how the pre-tertiary service is run. At a point in time, there was a silent perception that someone from the other side of government was pushing him to make the current government unpopular.

I did not believe in such rumours especially when someone like Teacher Kwadwo has been a fierce critique of our immediate erstwhile President Mahama. He did to the former president what “Calvin Tailor” has been doing to President Akufo Addo currently, just that Teacher Kwadwo’s version did not go beyond a social media post. It is from this that I strongly disagree with those who link the young teacher’s criticism of GES as political.

A few of his posts are sampled on his Facebook handle are not things any institution or service will take lightly.

On December 10, 2021, he posted something about the change of vacation days for primary schools: “Where the thing reach, ibi TAKASHI we go take go this vacation. If you be a hard teacher, you go fit go. If you be fearoo, you go stay. The CHOICE dey your der.”

A post like this may induce disregard for authority or directives especially when it is made in the public domain to describe obedient teachers as timid.

On December 8, 2021, he questioned the relevance of the organisation of the standardized test:

“You want to perform a STANDARDIZED EXAMS to assess learners’ performance and whatever… These same learners that over the few years, TEACHERS have been calling on you people (GES and the rest) to bring them TEXTBOOKS and other TLRs to enable them to have effective teaching and learning environment but all fell on deaf ears… Now, what is the purpose of the “STANDARDIZED EXAMS”?

This makes one carefully assess and ask questions concerning Teacher Kwadwo’s alleged absenteeism. Did Teacher Kwadwo attend the Ghana Accountability For Learning Outcome Project (GALOP) workshop organised for teachers?

GALOP is a joint cooperation between the World Bank and the Government of Ghana to provide financial assistance to almost all under-resourced and underperforming basic schools across the country. This is in a bid to bridge the resource and academic performance gap between those deprived or poorly performing schools and the already known performing ones.

The amount given to schools annually is from 1,500 to 5,000 Ghana Cedis or more. This amount is to be given annually for a 5 year period. This is different from the Capitation Grants government has been giving to schools.

Looking at how Teacher Kwadwo has been projecting how deprived the school he teaches in is, it will be very unusual if his school was not one of the numerous GALOP-assisted schools. Again if he had attended the GALOP workshop or had been briefed by his Headteacher on the expected outcomes of the GALOP, he would have had more than enough information on the purpose of the standardized test.

As for his comments about the laptop, it will be a topic for another day despite the fact that I have information about the alleged shady deal and would not want to exacerbate such a corrupt issue that is fading away.

Despite these criticisms, Teacher Kwadwo has made some drastic contributions to enhance teaching and learning in his school and district. The provision of food, uniforms, books, and computers to facilitate ICT teaching and learning is something most schools have been lacking all over Ghana especially in deprived communities. This is an open secret.

The provision of approved textbooks too to support the new curriculum after two years of introduction has been salt to the injury of teachers in terms of facilitating teaching and learning. Anyone who says the teacher can teach effectively without an approved textbook is hypocritical especially when a new curriculum has been introduced.

Teaching without textbooks is just like squeezing blood out of stones. Even students pursuing postgraduate studies rely on lecture slides and books to make their learning meaningful and memorable.

Let me describe something about dismissal according to Ghana’s Labour Law. The Labour Laws tell us that the employer has the right (or power) to hire and fire anyone at any time. In this case, Teacher Kwadwo’s direct employer is the GES. Reasons associated with dismissal can either make sense or not.

In Teacher Kwadwo’s case, reasons and other issues raise eyebrows from the two parties involved, especially with the fact that the alleged dismissal letter was backdated months ago and how Teacher Kwadwo gave his explanation for the stipulated reasons for dismissal.

Dismissal letters are personal so this will be the reason why it is not circulating in the public domain as most GES letters do. Absence without permission, failure to submit lesson notes and refusal to respond to queries are normally unprofessional conducts that are difficult to pardon at the GES. However, poor channels of communication could have been the cause of these given reasons and explanations.

ABSENCE WITHOUT PERMISSION

For the past two years, this absenteeism is a problem the GES has been struggling with and the service’s antidote was to stipulate that all permissions must be written that is by hand or by print. The power of the Headteacher to grant permission at the basic school level (from KG through Primary to JHS) is one day.

Anything above the Headteacher’s one-day permission goes to the School Improvement Support Officer (SISO) which was formerly known as Circuit Supervisor (CS). The SISO has the power to grant permission for 3 days.

Any other days more than that requires approval from the District or Municipal Director or directors at the regional or national level. A gentleman’s agreement between a teacher and a Headteacher without letters are permitted at seldom times and pardonable for a couple of days.

However, this is not a case of Teacher Kwadwo since an alleged 55-day absence is professionally unacceptable even if it was to save a president’s life. A committee set up by a Headteacher is not as powerful as we can perceive if it is not approved by the GES. That’s not how things are done.

FAILURE TO SUBMIT LESSON NOTES

The preparation of lesson notes is a Herculean Task most teachers would want to avoid. It is one of the reasons why many teachers are silent on the alleged shady deal and murky rumours surrounding the teacher laptops. Teachers are relying on taking the laptops in order to bid farewell for the writing of lesson notes.

Lesson notes are traditionally written by hand. Any teacher who wants to provide printed lesson notes copied online seems to be keen on cutting corners. The writing of lesson notes as a form of punishment or fear-inducing mechanism is not entirely true. One miniature positive aspect of the lesson note preparation is that it affords the teacher the rare opportunity to arm themselves with current and well-researched information to enhance their teaching.

No matter the information, education or experience the teacher has, lesson notes are to be handwritten and submitted for vetting. Any submission of printed copies is among one of those unapproved gentleman’s agreements between a Headteacher and his teachers even though it goes against the directives of the GES.

NOT RESPONDING TO QUERRIES

No organisation, even those that are run by families, take matters of not responding to queries lightly. Even though an interview with a radio station exhibited quite some attitudes of overconfidence, it sounded disrespectful to GES and anyone who has been in an educational administrative position.

Even though there are some recurring challenges at the basic educational level which many teachers are frightened to talk about due to the fear of loss of jobs, Teacher Kwadwo could have used a more diplomatic way to send his concerns about the obstacles he is facing as a teacher. He has accumulated quite some influence outside of the classroom which he could have used effectively to channel his difficulties to the appropriate authorities.

From his press statement on Facebook on December 19, 2021, it seems Teacher Kwadwo relied on only his Headteacher without the approval of the GES officials in his district. The Headteacher is the first point of authority in the GES, however, there are other authorities who supervise the Headteacher in matters concerning school management and administration.

This was what Teacher Kwadwo failed to acknowledge thus culminating in this rumoured dismissal. I deduce this from the fact that his alleged dismissal letter was backdated months ago that in October while we are in the month of December. On the one hand, if this is a typographical error, the dismissal letter will be null or void; on the other hand, if the date is as it is, then someone deliberately delayed giving the letter to Teacher Kwadwo to put him in this mess.

Sincerely, a teacher like Michael Owusu Afriyie has achieved individually what most teachers would not spend their resources on—provision of uniforms, books, food and computers to schools. Apart from his comments his destructive criticism and ill comments about the GES or related persons and institutions, Teacher Kwadwo was advocating for the better for his school and district.

Also, his passion for teaching and learning is commendable, thus a fact that would be difficult to deny. There are a lot more teachers and Ghanaians see in him through his passion and commitment to contribute to quality education through teaching and learning. I am one of those Ghanaians who believe his good outweigh his bad.

Columnist: Martin Elorm Dogbo