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UDS could be panacea to low teacher deployment in rural northern Ghana

Sat, 7 Feb 2015 Source: Ziem, Joseph

BY Joseph Ziem

The increasing lack of professional or trained teachers in rural Northern Ghana to teach students at the basic and senior high school levels in the most appropriate manner has become a conundrum for the state to contend with.

Couple with this situation which has existed over the years is governments’ provision of inadequate teaching and learning materials as well as classroom infrastructure and furniture for pupils and teachers use.

The end result of not addressing these problems adequately as they emerge has led to the annual graduation of droves of students who cannot even write or speak good grammar much less think creatively or innovatively.

Thus, the cycle of stark ignorance and illiteracy among a section of residents and indigenes of rural communities in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions, continue to transcend from one generation to the other like a festering sore just about to kill its victim.

Fortunately for the current government, the one before it and any future governments, there seem to be a solution to this problem of lack of trained teachers in rural areas which has persisted for decades now. Arguably, the solution to a larger extent could be proffered by the Faculty of Education of the University for Development Studies (UDS) which knows and understands the problems of rural areas in Ghana better than any tertiary educational institution.

It is not exactly the case that there are no teachers at all to impact teach children schooling in remote villages in Northern Ghana. But the actual problem has to do with the fact that, a lot of these teachers who are engaged to teach at the basic level do not have the requisite qualification, according to the Ghana Education Service (GES). This came about as many trained teachers posted by the GES over the years to teach in rural areas, persistently refused because of their disinterest to live and work in places that lack social or basic amenities.

Elsewhere in the private sector, owners of schools contract trained and experienced educationist to give regular hands-on training and guidance to untrained teachers also known as pupil teachers to enable them deliver effectively and efficiently in the classroom. This explains the reason why many private schools produce some of the best academically brilliant chaps in spite of the fact that a lot of their teachers are untrained.

Unfortunately, pupil teachers per a new GES directive issued in 2014, no longer qualify to teach in public schools. According to the GES, pupil teachers are not impacting the right kind of knowledge and skill on children and that is accounting for the higher number of students failing the annual Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) as well as the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in recent years. Thus, it has decided to terminate the appointment of all pupil teachers and engage the services of professionals.

The entire Northern Ghana has seven colleges of education, but many of their products often shy away from postings to schools in villages. Perhaps, the time has come for these colleges, like the UDS, to design their curricula to be in tune with the environment in which they are located.

For instance, one of the primary objectives towards the establishment of the UDS by the government was to enable it blend the academic world with that of the rural communities in order to provide constructive interaction between the two for the total development of Northern Ghana, in particular, and the country as a whole.

In fact, the UDS was borne out of the new thinking in higher education which emphasizes the need for universities to play a more active role in addressing problems like “lack of professional teachers” (emphasis mine) of the society, particularly in rural areas.

By its mandate and constituency, the university has a pro-poor focus. This is reflected in its methodology of teaching, research and outreach services. The specific emphasis on practically-oriented research and field-based training is aimed at contributing towards poverty reduction in order to accelerate national development.

The UDS runs a community-technical interface programme. This is a combination of the academic and community-based field practical work known as the Third Trimester Field Practical Programme (TTFPP).

Through this programme, thousands of students, right from level hundred to level two hundred, are sent to rural communities within the university’s catchment area comprising the aforementioned regions as well as the Brong Ahafo Region. The students stay in these communities for a couple of weeks, conduct research on development challenges confronting the inhabitants of these communities and proffer solutions to them.

The beauty of the TTFPP is that, after having spent four years in the UDS and several stays in a typical rural community as a student where in some cases, portable water and electricity are lacking, it has the tendency of nurturing the desire of many students to respond to calls to national duty in rural areas after completion.

According to the GES, hundreds of schools in the Northern Region, one of the most deprived areas in the country, are in dire need of more than 7,600 trained teachers. The Northern Regional Director of the GES, Paul Apanga, revealed at an educational forum organised by IBIS in Tamale last year, that about 404 schools in the region did not have a single trained teacher, leaving the running of schools in the care of volunteers and pupil teachers.

He said the situation had accounted for the abysmal performance of schools in the various examinations conducted by the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), requiring thousands of teachers to be posted to the area to avert the appalling situation.

“The region needs more than 7,652 teachers to occupy the various schools to help improve on the academic performance in the region,” he said.

The Northern Region has 26 districts– none of which had a senior high school that made it into the top 130 schools in the 2014 WASSCE rankings released by the Statistics, Research, Information, Management and Public Relations (SRIMPR) Division of the Ministry of Education.

Over the past five years, the region with a population of about 2.5 million inhabitants scored below average results in their schools.

Meanwhile, the Tamale Metropolis– the regional capital- boasts of a surplus of trained teachers, most of which are alleged to have refused postings to rural and deprived areas. According to Mr. Apanga, the GES Regional Directorate has identified and earmarked about 2,000 teachers in the Tamale Metropolis and the Sagnarigu District to be re¬posted to schools in other parts of the region lacking trained teachers.

“The metropolis is overstaffing with teachers in the primary, which has accounted for the teacher absenteeism in schools. Therefore, there is a need to re¬post such teachers to the other communities which need their service,” he said.

Personally, if government and for that matter the GES really want to address the problem of lack of trained teachers in the rural parts of Northern Ghana, this is the right time to offer employment to graduates from the UDS who have studied education to go and work there since graduates from other colleges and universities are unwilling.

Without a doubt, the UDS graduates are much ready and willing to serve in such deprived communities as compared to professionals from other institutions because they are well accustomed with conditions in those areas as a result of training received trough the TTFPP programme as students.

Government should also make it a policy, that graduates leaving college or university to teach in public schools, should be made to apply and given explicit terms of reference that binds them and vice versa. Any applicant who is posted to a rural school but refuses to go should have his appointment terminated without any further delay. Besides, teachers in rural schools should be paid more than those who want to be in the cities and towns.

Columnist: Ziem, Joseph