Opinions Wed, 18 Oct 2006

The NAGRAT Strike: A test case for teachers in Ghana.

The National Assoication of Graduate Teachers' (NAGRAT) justification for a prolonged strike action would surely fade with the passing of time.

On October 12th.2006, I watched on TV, a press conference basically organized to discuss the national budget vis-a-via teachers agitation for good pay.

Listening to the President of Ghana speak as an elderly statesman, appealing to his people, any other meaning assigned to his speech would be unfair in my estimation.

For NAGRAT for single out part of the President's appeal for a difficult "digestion", constitutes a disservice not only to the nation, by to all school children who continue to "wait and see" the association's next line of action. This strike action must end.

Why our graduate teachers cannot relate to the President's humor is anybody's guess. Yes, it is true, "that teachers were also taught by other teachers".

NAGRAT's inability to relate to the humor further demonstrates its entrenched position on this salary debate. It showcases members non-committment to use the chalk anytime soon .

For now, teaching and serious classroom work have been replaced with press conferences, statements from the NAGRAT leadership, and counter-statements.

NAGRAT has been stiffened by good and negative thoughts, how can we marry the two?.

Any pronouncement on the NAGRAT strike action is given a full twist to justify why members of the asociation have to stay out of the classroom .

Without any intention to invite insults, I have crafted a topic for the next NAGRAT-Government of Ghana debate -"Why graduate teachers should be paid their full salaries for not teaching?".

It is a pity to witness this ongoing saga because my mother was a teacher, a pioneer of Holy Child Teacher Training College. When she retired as the first woman from her village to do so in 1985 , she spoke of her proud record as a former dedicated teacher.

"Madam", as she was affectionately referred to, did not retire as a rich woman, but the honor and respect that came with her exit from the profession remain intact.

Teachers would forever remain important partners in development, their rich resource cannot be undermined by any individual, neither can anybody deny them a good pay structure.

But it is equally important not to allow "force" to be applied in such labor negotiations.

Reasoning can carry the day if it is given the chance, it can be used as the basis for any negotiation.

Reasoning, and passion for the job can be facilitative, though our "honorable" graduate teachers are still attached to their preferences, and rightly so.

Manifestations of an entrenched agenda cannot be controlled by any government, not even the insensitive ones.

Thanks God, Ghana has a "listening" government.

The good people of Ghana should continue to appeal to our graduate teachers , that their continuos strike action devalues the hard work and dedication of former serious-minded teachers.

Can we also say, that primary school teachers are not important? After all, how can a house without a strong foundation be maintained for a long time?. How can these children develop intellectually with a weaker academic foundation?.

What this suggests is that , all teachers are important, and that it is just appropriate to wait patiently for the comprehensive salary structure as explained by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

This represents the way forward, as this new salary structure can correct the disparities. It would re-affirm workers’ rights, the basis for increased and reasonable salary to all, and a commensurative component of hard work.

Within this ongoing saga are the exaggerations and prejudiced assertions , that have taken the place of the truth.

Suspicion, mistrust, and emotions have occupied our thinking to the detriment of the larger society.Thanks to our graduate teachers, as we continue to "pitch" our profession against other professions .

This is how our graduate teachers are trying to induce sympathy from the ill-informed and insoluble thinker.That follows is animosity, and the anger that replaces rational thinking.

Examined critically, the press conference attended by four ministers of state, as well as the President of Ghana, was timely. We can give it a bad name, but It revealed the compassionate side of our government.Our ministers of state were visibly begging our graduate teachers to return to the classroom.

A journalist from the "Insight" newspaper even embarrassed himself by misquoting what the Minister for Private Sector Reform had just said at the forum. This further reveals how a section of the media is becoming a bit "funky" these days.

This is just one of the examples of misrepresentations, of falsehood , that have engulfed a section of the media still keeping an agenda to discredit a government in power.

We have decided not to be cautious as a people with strong values, we are sacrificing our national pride , our guiding principles as people who believe in democracy. We have decided not to exercise due diligence, when to "wash our dirty linen in public", or whether that agenda is even worth pursuing at all.

We are refusing to be proud as Ghanaians, as teachers (forgive me for not adding graduate) motivated by the desire to do more for our country irrespective of what political party is in power.

We have become attached to this vicious cycle of sabotaging the national will, the desire to sacrifice, to make peace, and to live in real freedom and justice.

Are these teachers the ones still lamenting, that "children of today" do not want to become teachers due to poor remuneration, and lack of respect for the profession?.

My mother instilled in her children, that one of them should become a teacher.Currently, my younger sister , Ebisawonyame Aidoo , is enrolled at the University College of Winneba, pursuing further studies to improve her teaching skills.

This is a real example of how people are encouraged to become teachers, not "by chance", but encouraged by people who still believe in extending knowledge to others.

These numerous appeals to our graduate teachers must be criticially examined .

I would like to add my voice as a mortal and humble Ghanaian who shares in their believe and pain, that an equitable and reasonable salary structure can motivate workers to increase productivity.

When we often hear people say, that the teacher's reward is in heaven, we do forget to add , that , Yes, their reward is in heaven but " who wants to go to heaven with an empty stomach".

But to know that former graduate teacher- Mr. R. T Sackey, ex- headmaster of Tarkwa Secondary School and Prempeh College, still relishes in the excellent attributes of being a teacher once upon a time, our "marauding" teacher have been presented with a solid example of dedication to this noble profession.

May be, this would serve as a reminder, that teachers should start wearing their "respectable cloth " which most former teachers have kept and still pride themselves with having one in their closet.

This is how we can all wait patiently for the new salary structure to become functional.

Meantime, going back to the classrooms becomes a an excellent choice that would be applauded by all parents who still cherish the important role teachers play to impact quality education.

Let us all accept, that "A call , inevitable your’s, when ignored, can dilute good intentions".

A word to the wise..............................

Author: Ato Aidoo, former journalist, Daily Graphic, Accra, Ghana.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Aidoo, Ato