Dr Christian Addai- Poku - A teacher unionist leading professionalism

BY: Efia Akese

For a long period, Dr Christian Addai-Poku was known as a vocal leader of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), one of the teacher unions in Ghana.

From his days as the Ashanti regional chairman to national vice-president and eventually, becoming president of the association, he worked tirelessly with his teams to ensure that the grievances of teachers were addressed.

Between 2010 to 2017 when he was the president of the association, he was the official spokesperson for the union, chief negotiator and represented the union at the national level.

From 2019 ,however, when he was appointed as the Registrar of the National Teaching Council (NTC), an agency of the Ministry of Education mandated by the Education Regulatory Bodies Act, 2020 (Act 1023) to promote teacher professionalism in Ghana, his assignment changed from representing teachers to regulating the teaching profession.
In an interview with The Mirror last Tuesday, Dr Addai- Poku said although his current role puts him in an “interesting position”, his experiences with the teacher union helps him to better manage some issues.

“The people that I used to represent now appear before me in a different manner for me to decide on their issues. This time, the leaders “fight” for their people and I insist the right thing must be done which makes in a little challenging.

“However, because I have been at that side before, I know the heartbeat and so when there is the need to talk behind the scenes or deal with issues diplomatically, I try to do that before it escalates,” he explained.

He said he was able to study the labour caveat and how to manage human resources because he was a union leader and it was these experiences he was leveraging as the current registrar of the regulator of the profession.

Dr Addai-Poku said although leadership of the teacher unions respect him due to the roles he played in advocating for them in the past, it never compromised their decisions in accepting some of the changes the NTC wanted to implement.

“For instance, before the Teacher Licensure Exams, I met with leaders of the various teacher unions where we discussed its benefits to the profession and after long meetings and discussions with the Ghana Education Service, we agreed on some terms and started implementing. The teachers ,however, were not happy. There were comments like “You have been fighting for us so we get what we deserve and now you are taking money from us”.

“I am on a number of teacher WhatsApp platforms and the moment I released the statement on the Licensure Examination, the comments on the page were “Is this is the same NAGRAT president who was fighting for us…,” Then, most of them didn’t understand, some people only paid attention to the headline and didn’t read the whole statement and jumped to conclusions,” he explained

Currently, with a lot of education done on the need for the exams, more teachers have understood the need for teacher regulation and professionalism.”
He admitted that the controversies around the exams and other initiatives like the introduction of the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and Point Base System for teachers could be “karma” at work.

“Some of the things I used to say or do when I was a union leader, I came here and got a different appreciation of the situation. I remember at a send-off party for the former registrar of NTC who is my predecessor, I spoke strongly against the changes of ranking system of teacher which the NTC had proposed.

In 2017, he was adjudged the National Best Worker (Organised Labour)

“Honestly, later when I came to NTC and started reviewing the document and looking at best practice across the world, I realised that the NTC was right. I went to the current NAGRAT President, Mr Eric Kofi Agbe-Carbonui who was my vice to explain the document with him.

“Being my vice in the past, he attended many meeting with me and knew my position on the matter which he supported. So when I went back with a different view, his first comment was “now that you are on the other side you see its importance. All NAGRAT members know your position about that and you cannot table this anywhere.” I told him well, the right thing must be done. We went into a meeting to discuss that issue and they said they won’t agree just as I didn’t agree when the former NTC registrar brought it up. Anytime, I think about that, I know it is karma,” he narrated.

Despite these challenges, he said his stay at the NTC had been fruitful as most of the grievances of teachers against certain policies had been ironed out or were still being discussed and the teachers also knew that although he had moved to the “other side”, he still had their interest at heart and wouldn’t lead any policy that would hurt them.

A man of many hats
Away from his official duties, we looked at his wardrobe and love for hats. He hardly appears in public without a hat and he confirmed that he currently had about 27 of them.

In fact, when this reporter arrived at his office, there was a black homburg hat adorned with little feathers which matched his suit.

He said some of his hats do not only match his outfits but his shoes, ties or belt. He told this reporter that he was always mindful of how he looked as appearances were important.

Hats have been part of his appearance since 2009 and Dr Addai-Poku said for a long time, he admired people who wore appropriate hats that matched their outfits and occasions and so he decided to start wearing them too.

He recounted that when he started, many people wanted to know why he was appearing in public with it.

Dr Addai-Poku  (middle),  is a member of the Supreme Council of the Knight of Marshall of the Catholic Church. He is currently an Assistant Supreme Reader and Examiner

“Some said I was going bald, others said it was some sort of juju… I enjoyed the talk on my hats and continued to wear them for all my TV interviews. The hat is always an ice-breaker, that’s where the conversation starts before we move to substantive issues.”

Not all people are excited about his love for hats though as there are instances when people felt he had to take off his hat.

“The feedback is mixed, there was an interview I attended and felt I had to go without a hat but as soon as I entered, the panel started laughing and asked why I didn’t have it on saying it was part of my identity. There was another one where after the session, one of the panel members, a lady, said she felt I shouldn’t have met the panel with a hat on.

One of the few days  he stepped out without a hat

“Actually if you look at hat culture, when you are indoors, you take off your hat but for me, I wear hats everywhere because I like them and also to spur the curiosity of others.
There are also instances I walked into certain places and people didn’t recognise me because I didn’t have a hat on’’.

Dr Addai-Poku was born and raised at Ashanti Boanim where he started schooling. After his Common Entrance Exams in form 3 at the Boanim L/A Middle School, he proceeded to the Okomfo Anokye Secondary School at Wiamoase also in the Ashanti Region where he completed his O’ Level.

He then moved to the Atebubu Training College (now College of Education) and completed in 1994. After training college, he taught for close to four years and enroled at the University of Cape Coast to study Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) Arts in 1998 and completed in 2001.In 2009, he graduated with a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Educational Administration degree from the same university.In 2019, he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Leadership from the University of Education, Winneba - Kumasi Campus.

Dr Addai-Poku with Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister for Education at the ninth Africa Federation of Teacher Regulation Authority conference and 11th roundtable held in Accra

He is currently the President of Education International (EI), Africa Region, a position he has held since 2018 and serves on a number of boards and councils in Ghana and Africa. He has also been part of many committees that deliberate on key issues in the educational sector.

He has taught in many school in different capacities with his last active role being the headmaster of the Oppon Memorial Senior High School and the Asanteman Senior High School respectively.

Dr Addai- Poku and his wife are blessed with five children. They are from right: Rosemary, Purissima, Magnificat, Benedict and Margaret Mary 

He attributes his successes to years of learning, hard work and dedication. He was full of praise of his family, particularly his wife for the support she have given him in his journey.

Dr Addai-Poku and his wife Lucy are fans of Liverpool Football Club

He is a fan of Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Liverpool Football Club and aside his love for football, he loves to read during his free time.

“Don’t be in a rush to get rich. The riches will come with time when God blesses you. The only secret is to continue studying and working hard. Young people must also be mindful of the people they choose as life partners. Personally, if my wife hadn’t been supportive, I wouldn’t be here.” This was his advice to young people.