Thinking Aloud: The lot of teachers

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

In that wise, the action by teachers to lay down their tools until their welfare needs are resolved is justified.

One person has noted that “the first duty of society is justice;” therefore, if we want to ensure justice, then we must believe in the saying that when you admonish the cat, you also need to advise meat.

Whilst it is true that the interest of particularly the two batches of senior high school students and junior high school students who are about to take their terminal examinations are important together with all other students, the welfare of teachers is equally critical.

That is why although I do not discount the pleadings for teachers to go back to teach in line with the philosophy that we do not stand in the midst of soldier ants to remove them, I also think that as our elders say, if you do not place it where it should be, it breaks.

Therefore, the teachers do not have to cause problems and as a saying goes, “one has to resign oneself to being a nuisance if one wants to get anything done,” because “quarrels would not last if the fault was only on one side”.

Indeed, I also believe in the man who maintains that “compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves”, and that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

This is not the first time that teachers have embarked on industrial action and it may not be the last if we do not take the necessary steps to firmly and decisively resolve their concerns and place teachers where they should be to give meaning and function to the profession as essential to the quality of human resource development.

I have in my nearly three decades of journalism, engaged in matters concerning teachers.

These include repeated incidents of newly trained teachers who are not paid for months up to two years in one instance, but are yet expected to work to dismissed pupil teachers denied their terminal benefits.

In one particular case, I had to confront a regional director , who  frankly told  teacher being denied the appropriate salary, told the hapless teacher that she was too young to receive that level of salary.

I had to take up the matter with the Ghana Education Service headquarters and the Controller and Accountant General before the anomaly was rectified to give the teacher the confidence to teach soundly.

In another incident, retired teachers were told that their records could not be traced at the offices of the GES near the Kinbu Senior High School.

But the difficulty for me and some of the teachers who have come to me for help is the fact that these teachers suffer from the hands of teachers. The GES is managed by teachers.

The feeling is that they would have understood teachers better. But, somehow, just as many professionals in politics sacrifice professionalism for political expediency, those teachers who find themselves at the GES somewhat consider themselves different from teachers in the classrooms.

I was a victim of the failings of the GES to implement policy when my father died. One of my brothers, a teacher, who I thought could be of help and support to reduce the financial burden bemoaned his lot.

He had been promoted for more than a year. However, he was still on his old salary. After the funeral, I collected his details together with one of his colleagues who was also shabbily treated.

On my return to Accra in March 2012, I gave the particulars to a reporter to follow up. And when the reporter went to the GES headquarters, they did not see the need to send the report to the media.

The justification was that there were thousands of teachers suffering the same fate so my brother was not special. Their concerns will be addressed in due course.

To avoid creating unnecessary and undeserved animosity and hatred for my brother, I discontinued my efforts. So today, if teachers are complaining that for three years their annual increment has been unilaterally frozen, they must be given a hearing that must attempt to address their needs.

The resort to what is described as ‘petitio principi,” begging the question and appeals to emotions, “argumentum ad hominem” that in the interest of the pupils and students they should go back to the classroom, does not address the issues and do not portray us as discharging our primary duty of ensuring justice.

I have a daughter and niece in senior high school. They have been affected with the strike but it is not fair that all these three years we have left the teachers to struggle for themselves.

For instance, if under the new salary administration merit increases are to be based on performance appraisal, but the measurement has not been done, should the existing process of across board annual adjustment be stopped. And if there is the need to stop it, should it be unilateral or mutually agreed?.

Those who are quoting the law must also be reminded that equity is also law. Therefore, in the circumstance that public officials as directors at the district and regional levels renege in their duty to compile lists of teachers who own vehicles for maintenance allowances, is it that the beneficiaries should be abandoned or the GES should discipline its employees? Why should the failure of the GES be an alibi to deny beneficiaries their due?

Thankfully, the Ghana National Association of Teachers and the National Association of Graduate Teachers are united in their resolve.

I am an advocate of teachers because we have taken them for granted for too long. The interest of school children are important, so also are that of the teachers. We have to strike a balance between these contending interests. That is the purpose of both law and  ethics.

Article by Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh