- The question is, would these union leaders seek for extension of the schools' lockdown if they were in the private sector and their salaries depended on the school fees collected? Certainly not!
Dear Professor Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa,
I have always wanted to reach you to show my appreciation for the transformational education agenda you and your team are executing for mother Ghana. Truth is, there's so much to be done to create for Ghana the top-notch educational structure comparable to that of the developed world. However, it is crystal clear that the service in collaboration with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA) and the National Inspectorate Board (NIB) is poised at ensuring that Ghana education gets the development it deserves. Congratulations!
There are many suggestions that I will be sharing with you from my training and experience to aid the implementation of the transformation agenda. However, in this piece I want to address a major concern that is in the public domain.
Four teacher unions - Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) and the Teachers and Educational Workers' Union (TEWU) - have come together to issue a letter dated 18th May, 2020 to you. The letter apparently is a reply to your earlier letter calling for a stakeholder consultation on the way-forward for re-opening of schools should the president direct the discontinuation of the ban on social gathering.
Unfortunately, the said letter raised eight (8) points to counter any intention of government to allow schools to re-open after almost 10 weeks of their lockdown as a measure to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Obviously, these four groups represent the teaching and non-teaching staff in the public schools only. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that they were speaking for their members.
They conclude, thus, "The Pre-tertiary Education Unions would not ascribe to the re-opening of the schools, should the president of the Republic decide not to extend the 31st May, 2020 deadline and order the re-opening of the schools." For the purposes of emphasis, those concerns raised are purely those of the public school leaders, teachers and their colleagues.
The question is, would these union leaders seek for extension of the schools' lockdown if they were in the private sector and their salaries depended on the school fees collected? Certainly not! Clearly, the teachers under the GES are enjoying full monthly salaries and they have a promise of their full salaries in the months ahead for no work done. Hence, their decision to boycott the schools should the president direct the resumption of schools.
I wished the eight points raised were suggestions to the GES on creative ways the schools can operate and the way-forward in spite of the pandemic. In my opinion, the union leaders should be advising the GES on simple ways to possibly decongest the schools for teaching and learning to start. However, the letter sought to highlight reasons schools should not be allowed to resume.
The teacher unions have the means to deal easily with some of the concerns they raised. The unions especially GNAT and NAGRAT have the capacity to supply their members with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and nose/face masks through their massive investments. This will surely be a very good corporate social responsibility exercised at the much-needed time.
Their letter even mischievously failed to mention that 1,754 out of the 5,735 confirmed cases representing 30.5% have recovered. This figure of recoveries is positive sign that Ghana is winning the war. It is also a positive sign that our frontline workers have gathered enough information about the Corona virus and the Covid-19. The failure of the union leaders to acknowledge this feat is a clear stance of playing mischief. It is a stance deliberately taken to spread fear, thereby preventing the re-opening of schools.
At this point, it is my understanding that the gallant researchers at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the other testing centres have gathered enough data about the operations of the virus. Therefore, I plead with the government through the GES to allow private schools to re-open when the president of the Republic announces the lift of the social gathering ban. Private schools are ready to ensure that all the safety protocols are adhered to. Officials from the district and municipal offices of the GES can be assigned to ensure that the measures are obeyed. We are prepared to combine the traditional face-to-face teaching with the prescribed e-Learning modules prepared by the National Inspectorate Board to reduce the number of students where there is need to.
In my conclusion, I ask that you disregard the unprogressive letter from the four unions and consider the science and data to make your decision. Thank you very much for making time to read.
(The writer, Joseph Appah, is the Executive Director of TreasureHunt Education and Headmaster of a private school in Greater Accra, Ghana)
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