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Why we scrapped allowance for trainee teachers – Education Minister

 The Minister for Education, Prof. Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, has defended the government’s decision to scrap allowances for students in Colleges of Education (Teacher Training Colleges) across the country.

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The decision to scrap the Gh₵400 monthly allowance has been unpopular among trainee teachers across the country, with some of them wearing red arm bands to classrooms in a bid to impress upon the government to restore the allowance.

Prof. Opoku-Agyemang is, however, convinced that the decision is a good one.

According to her, since Colleges of Education have become degree-awarding institutions, it would be inappropriate to pay allowances to their students without extending a similar gesture to trainee teachers at institutions such as the University of Cape Coast and the University of Education, Winneba.

“College of education is a tertiary institution just as universities are tertiary institutions. It’s difficult to understand why [students of] one should be paid to learn. In terms of justice, in terms of equity, it didn’t sound like a good idea,” she told Accra-based Radio Gold Monday.

Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said due to the huge sums of money required to pay the allowance of trainee teachers, Colleges of education were unable to admit students beyond a certain government-defined quota.

The scrapping of the allowance, she said, has now opened the way for many more students to be admitted.

Explaining further, she said enrollment in the Colleges of Education increased from 9000 to 15,400 this year as a result of the allowance cut.

“It’s a matter of opening door to many more people. Education is important, many more people must have access to education and this is what we are doing,” the Minister added.

 

Unapproved fees

Touching on her Ministry’s drive to ensure that only fees approved by the Ghana Education Service (GES) are charged by secondary schools across the country, Prof. Opoku-Agyemang said a hotline would be set up to enable parents report schools that charge unapproved fees.

According to her, “extortionary measures” had been used in some schools to compel students to pay between Gh₵1500 and GH₵1700 in school fees instead of about GH₵600.

She said action had been taken against some school heads that were found to have charged such unapproved fees.

The Minister said efforts to clamp down on many more of such school heads were being hampered by the reluctance of some parents to report unapproved charges out of fear that their children will be victimised.

 

Quality education

Prof Opoku-Agyemang also spoke of efforts to improve quality of education in the country.

She said while Ghana’s education system was currently “very good”, it could get better if all stakeholders played their part in improving it.

“In order to have quality education, we need quality teachers, quality students, students who are interested in learning, we need teachers who are committed to teaching, we need parents and guardians who are playing their role, we need the government to play its role also,” she stated.

The Minister said the government lead the way by eliminating ‘schools under trees’ in the country and ensuring that existing educational structures had good supply of water and toilet facilities.

She said social intervention programmes such as the supply of uniforms, learning materials and food to needy students would be intensified, while government would continue to invest in the training of teachers.

She said 20,000 teachers had been trained in the use of laptops, while 30,000 were currently undergoing training as part of efforts to equip students with ICT skills.

Mrs Opoku-Agyemang appealed to teachers to work hard in the classroom and avoid absenting themselves from school.

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“Many teachers are doing well, but others are not pulling their weight,” she said, warning that Ghana’s current 27 per cent teacher absenteeism rate was unacceptable.

The Education Minister also urged school heads to play their part in ensuring that the quality of education is improved.

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