Always thank a teacher
The celebration of World Teachers’ Day last week brought me some rather fond memories of the teaching profession from three different perspectives – as a learner, as a teacher of sorts and from my work at the Ministry of Education.
These interwoven experiences have shaped my appreciation of this noble profession most profoundly.
Most of my teacher experiences were rather fond ones, from my time with Miss Elizabeth Nyarko in kindergarten at Tarkwa Goldfields Preparatory School to Mr Appiagyei, Mr Arthur and Mr Ade Omotosho in primary school at Prestea Goldfields International School.
At Opoku Ware School, Mrs Kwapong made me fall hopelessly in love with French, Mr J.C Flynt’s English class was a delight, Mr Akwasi Afrifa made Government a whole new experience, and Mr Baafi’s style of teaching Mathematics just about saved me from failing the subject that I loved to hate.
At the University of Ghana, Messrs Drah, Oquaye and Boafo-Arthur of the Political Science Department and Prof. Kwesi Yankah and Prof. Florence Dolphyne of the Linguistics Department were a joy to learn from.
Back in the 1980s, following the shutting down of the universities for one academic year due to politically-related campus disturbances, the government of the day made it compulsory for all secondary school leavers who sought to enter the universities to undertake one year’s national service, as there was still a backlog to clear after the universities reopened and we were home idling away.
I was posted to the Islamic Primary School in Tarkwa, where I taught Primary Five.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and my colleagues were wonderful, showing me the ropes on everything from disciplining an unruly child to preparing my lesson notes. I enjoyed myself so much that I began to seriously consider teaching as a career.
Most of the children were from deprived backgrounds and struggled with basic reading and comprehension skills, but they were absolutely kind, respectful and helpful, though a few were rather stubborn.
Many years after I had left Tarkwa and visited my parents there from abroad, I was quite stunned when two young men approached me in town, and beaming with smiles, introduced themselves as my former students.
It was not until they mentioned their names that I recognised them.
The glow I felt when they thanked me for helping them learn to read back in school was simply incredible.
The third prong of my experience with the teaching profession came during my four-year stint as Press Secretary to the then Minister for Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh (Napo), from 2017 to 2021, during the first term of President Akufo-Addo.
My role meant that I sat in several meetings where policy issues, including those that were geared specifically towards teachers, were discussed with various stakeholders, and this helped me appreciate even better what the government did and sought to do for the profession.
I recall the storms around the teacher licensure programme the government sought to introduce, for instance.
It was, in the Minister’s view, unacceptable that anyone could get a job as a teacher and start teaching away without any professional qualifications or having to meet any standards as pertained in several other professions.
Some gatekeeping was clearly necessary.
In any event, the Education Act of 2008 (Act 778) had mandated licensure.
All that was needed was the political will and leadership, which Dr Prempeh provided.
Today, many teachers who have sought to teach abroad have had their paths smoothened by the fact of their teaching licence, and ‘Napo’ stands vindicated for his unflinching determination to implement the licensure regime.
Other reforms, including the upgrade of Colleges of Education to degree-awarding university colleges affiliated with various public universities, the introduction of a new teacher education curriculum, the introduction of teacher allowances, the abolition of the ‘3 months’ pay policy’ introduced by the previous government and a reform of the teacher promotion aptitude test for serving teachers were some of the measures introduced during the President’s first term.
Serving as MC for two consecutive years during the Ghana Teacher Prize Awards was a great personal honour.
Reward in heaven?
Back in the day, the teacher was a huge pillar in the local community, serving as catechist, chief disciplinarian, letter-writer, reader and interpreter for the palace, aside from his core teaching duties, for which he commanded huge respect.
Times have changed now, and the notion of the teacher’s reward being in heaven is no longer tenable.
We must, as a nation, continue to work hard to give the teacher a taste of heaven right here on earth.
They deserve no less.
You have read this piece to the end, dear reader, thanks to your teachers.
Respectfully, I appeal to you to say a quiet prayer for them, wherever they may be.