Government must engage NAGRAT

There appears to be conflicting information pertaining to the strike action announced by the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), since Deputy Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has refuted the claims of NAGRAT – saying government has already released GH¢40,368,203 to pay the arrears, and therefore there is no need for the strike.

However, NAGRAT at a press briefing on Wednesday announced an indefinite strike over what it terms unfulfilled assurances from government over the payment of outstanding arrears owed members of the association.

Whatever the point is, this Paper believes there might be need for engagement between government and NAGRAT at a roundtable, so that there is some form of convergence and this conflicting stance in the public space can be avoided.

If indeed government met its part of the bargain, we find it hard to believe that NAGRAT would organise a press conference to announce to the world its intended strike action. There are issues that need to be resolved – and with dispatch, because the strike could derail efforts at rolling out a successful free SHS programme that is in its second year of implementation.

NAGRAT has since December last year hinted at embarking on a strike action early in the year, after months of negotiation between teacher unions and government had gone awry. Details of the impasse is another matter, but for the sustenance of the new educational programme rolled out last year we believe government cannot afford to engage in a tango with key stakeholders to the success of such a monumental education programme as free SHS.

Therefore, government must assuage members of NAGRAT and ensure their buy-in to the new educational programme, since it is in its formative stage. We also urge NAGRAT to be a bit more accommodating in view of the situation on the ground, and accept a modified form of arrears payment.

We believe government would like to settle all arrears despite the austere times that we face as a country. Therefore, there might be a need to stagger payments until such time that the money is available to be released in bulk.

The threat of an indefinite strike will only exacerbate matters and throw out of gear the educational programme that is meant to ensure equity and access for all eligible candidates for secondary education in the country.

Teachers on the whole have not been accorded the importance their vocation requires, since they are responsible for training future minds. Let’s accord them their due.