The enemy of the teacher is the teacher and not government

Teachers And Students  School A file photo of a teacher in the classroom

Tue, 5 Oct 2021 Source: Denis Andaban

Today marks one of the milestones of the teaching fraternity across the globe: Teachers' Day.

World Teachers’ Day is held annually on 5th October to celebrate all teachers around the globe. It commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers, and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.

It is therefore an honour, to congratulate and wish all teachers in Ghana, a great and memorable day. May our sacrifices get the needed recognition and respect.

On a special day like this, we must also reflect the path of the fraternity. The conditions we live in, especially, must be the core of the issues in any proper contextualized conversation. I will contribute to the subject, narrowing the issues to the profession in Ghana and how we, as teachers, have sold out our own integrity, respect and value. The genesis of our current predicaments is our own attitudes towards the profession. Do you agree with me?

Often times, I wonder how comes a government will think that a teacher should not enjoy any better condition of service. Even when it comes to policy formulation which the teacher will implement, teachers are less involved.

I know this remains a wonder to you too but makes a deeper reflection and you would agree that we have made the profession so vulnerable that we are easily used and dumbed!

Our leaders, herein, the Union leaders, are often used as bait, to exploit the innocent teacher. It is the Union Leader who supposed at the peril of their lives, represent the position of the larger interest of the teacher. In many cases, however, these leaders go to the negotiation table without any broader consultation so do not know the feelings and interests of the larger majority of the fraternity.

While the subject of bad conditions of teachers lingers on, Union leaders find it appropriate to agree with government, a paltry 4% salary increment. This, many teachers were not happy about. Fuel price alone for 2021 has increased more than 4%. This also reflects in transport fares!

Union leaders were persuaded by the fact that we are not in normal times. These same Union leaders feel okay that article 71 officeholders had a salary increment of more than 70%. Or the "not in normal times" is for only the ordinary teacher?

Are we now in normal times that the government is thinking about procuring a new presidential jet? What is the position of the Union leaders? They are dead silent!

Again, the highest form of absurdity is Union leaders negotiating for government to procure substandard laptops for teachers. The 21st-century teacher in 2021 should be negotiating for housing schemes, vehicles, enhanced salaries, accommodation allowance and a host of others. Indeed, I believe every teacher is capable of buying a laptop. Even if teachers complain, they cannot buy laptops. GNAT through Mutual Fund and Teachers' Mall are very capable of selling laptops to teachers on instalment basis. The profit that would have accrued would be used to enrich the Association, which would in turn, be invested to improve the teacher. That is how to innovatively help your members to grow personally and professionally. I thought teachers' Mall has been selling various items to teachers on installment? For a professional Association like ours, to among the numerous predicaments bedeviling us, consider that such a laptop is the topmost necessity for teachers, is shameful.

I dare say, we have accepted the laptops because we did not have any option, but I personally think that we have better things to negotiate for than what we can provide ourselves.

We need not lower our image! Government has done well by providing the laptops, after all, our leaders negotiated for it. Now, a company that could not sell 50 laptops a month is selling thousands a day. Someone will certainly "lick fingers" from this sole source! Teachers are used as the bait!

How well do teachers contribute to policies in this country? We are in a very good position to contribute but we worship politicians and fear to contradict them. Great occasions like today will end without any policy proposal deliberation by teachers!

We must "own" the educational sector through authoritative policy discussions, the only way we can rediscover our esteem in national development.

Again, it will interest you to note that, more than 70% of workers at the Ghana Education Service are professional teachers. The moment they get there, most of them become enemies to the classroom teacher. They will not take decisions that will benefit the teacher to function effectively. Some will even put impediments on your professional growth. In the area of promotion, upgrading, further studies, among others, we see these frustrations!

Indeed, the enemy of the teacher is the teacher.

Teachers fought so much for professional allowance. The professional allowance was granted. Thanks to the current government. Immediately government agreed to pay the allowance, Union leaders entered into another obnoxious agreement for government through National Teaching Council to deduct Hundred Cedis to facilitate the giving of licence to teachers. As I type, teachers have since not received the so called licenses. Is the money being used for business? It is from the same professional allowance that 30% of the cost of the "Almighty Laptops" is deducted from! Who will talk? Is it the fault of government? No!

GNAT in particular, has the strength, both numerical and financial muscle, but we fail to leverage same to present an enviable image and value to government.

All hope is not lost. We can do better to enhance our own growth. Then and there, government will value us more on the negotiation table. This, we must do with firmness, boldness and clean conscience but if we choose to become political puppets or choose to advance personal interests to the detriment of the ordinary teacher, then we are doomed and yet to see shameful days.

I love the profession, I love all those working hard for the interest of the fraternity and I salute all teachers across the length and breadth of Ghana. We have a country to build but we must build ourselves first!

My best regards to Thomas Musah, the General Secretary of GNAT under whose leadership, dissemination of information has significantly improved.

Columnist: Denis Andaban