Consider plight of learners as paramount – CSO to striking teachers

  • urges gov’t and unions to dialogue 

With almost every teacher union group from basic to tertiary level declaring an industrial strike action for one reason or the other currently, civil society organisations (CSOs) within the education space have indicated that the students are the ultimate losers; hence, the striking teachers must consider the plight of these learners as paramount.

On Friday, November 4, 2022, three teacher unions at the pre-tertiary level, namely: the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers Ghana (CCTG), declared a strike action over the failure of government to meet their deadline to terminate the appointment of Dr. Eric Nkansah as acting Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES).

This strike action by the pre-tertiary level unions comes to join the already striking teacher unions at the tertiary level. The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) is on strike, together with the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU), the Senior Staff Association of Universities of Ghana (SSA-UoG), and the Ghana Association of University Administrators (GAUA). Key among concerns is the payment of vehicle maintenance and off-campus allowances.

The Colleges of Education Teachers Association of Ghana (CETAG) and the Colleges of Education Non-Teaching Staff Association of Ghana (CENTSAG), two major staff associations at the 46 colleges of education across the country, have also threatened to lay down their tools if government does not prioritise their welfare in five days.

According to the CSOs, including Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch) and Institute for Education Studies (IFEST), the rampant strike actions being recorded in the education space in recent times are due to a lack of dialogue, consultation and consensus building in decision-making. However, the CSOs believe that both parties must reconsider deeply the plight of learners since they are the ultimate losers in every strike action.

Executive Chairman of the IFEST, Peter Anti, indicated that the Ministry of Education (MoE) must learn to respect the employees even when they feel their demand is not acceptable. Additionally, when respect is shown to engage and dialogue with the unions in a professional way, some of these strikes would have been prevented even if government cannot meet their demands.

The Executive Director of Eduwatch, Kofi Asare, on his part, indicated that the best way to solve strikes is to prevent them from happening.

“We can prevent all these if we consult and build consensus prior to major decisions. Keep social dialogue spaces open, take decisions based on consultation with a significant degree of consensus, the government should respect existing agreements with tertiary workers,” he said.

Why is the GES DG position of top concern to teachers?

The Ghana Education Service (GES), which is the largest agency under the MoE, is responsible for the implementation of approved national pre-tertiary educational policies and programmes to ensure that all Ghanaian children of school-going age irrespective of tribe, gender, disability, religious and political affiliations are provided with inclusive and equitable quality formal education.

The mandate of the GES makes it practically impossible for any decision or policy to take place at the pre-tertiary level without their input because they are the implementers of all these policies as mandated by law.

How did we get here?

Executive Chairman of the IFEST, Peter Anti, indicated that IFEST, as far back as May 2022 expressed concern over the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) seeming to sideline the Ghana Education Service (GES) in its operations and the likely implications thereof which are manifesting now, but unfortunately no action was taken at the time.

In that report, IFEST mentioned some key happenings that attempted to weaken the GES – including the mode of implementation of the National Standard Test (NST), the formation of the MoE committee to develop the school calendar, recruitment of headteachers for newly completed STEM schools, and the GALOP Teacher Training issue.

In that report, IFEST proposed three solutions as the way forward, which could have stopped this current situation. These included the calls on the MoE to show leadership and ensure that there was proper coordination and cordiality between these two critical institutions.

Secondly, it proposed that the GES council should ensure that the mandate of the service was not compromised. Finally, it appealed to the President of the Republic of Ghana to step in and ensure that the investments made in the education sector did not go down the drain because of the lack of coordination between these two critical institutions.

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