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Is Education Minister ignorant or playing political mischief? Kwami Alorvi asks

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Is Education Minister ignorant or playing political mischief? Kwami Alorvi asks 46

 

 

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a video in which the Minister of Education, Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, aka Napo, on Accra based NET2 TV, displayed a document he claimed contained some welfare packages he had supposedly put in place for teachers. The Hon. Minister stated in that video that the document, or its content, was unprecedented in the history of teacher motivation in Ghana. As he put it in Twi “ebi nsi da.”

 

But after the Minister had read the signatories to the document as Mr. Thomas Musah for GNAT, Mr. Angel Carbonu for NAGRAT, Mr. King Awudu Ali for CCT, Prof. Kwapong for FWSC and Prof. Opoku Amankwah for the GES, I couldn’t help but screamed “Christ Me”!!

 

I came to the realization that the document the Minister was displaying to the host of the programme was a renewed Collective Agreement which the education sector unions have always signed with their employer, the Ghana Education Service.

 

How then could the Minister claim that the renewed Collective Agreement (he had failed to direct the GES to renew earlier) was unprecedented? This was an agreement which the MoE/GES was compelled to renew because elections are around the corner.

 

I can emphatically state that the Collective Agreement that preceded the current one he displayed, was jointly signed by Mrs. Irene Duncan- Adanusa and me on behalf of GNAT and NAGRAT respectively in either 2008 or 2009.

 

The Minister’s utterance on NET2 TV that the Collective Agreement he displayed was unprecedented prompted me to query whether his posturing and pronouncements were borne out of a genuine but pathetic ignorance of what collective agreements are in the GES or he tried to play to the political gallery just for the sake of political mischief.

 

Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh has earned the unenviable record as the only Education Minister in the history of Ghana to have carried Handing-over Notes from his predecessor and Collective Agreement on conditions of service of teachers, to a TV Station to do propaganda. In that case then, I do agree with him that his action and pronouncements were not only unprecedented, but equally infantile and unprofessional, to say the least. Collective Agreements have always been part of our education system; his is not unprecedented as he claimed.

 

Except the 15% monthly salary instituted by the NDC as teachers Retention Premium which has been captured on the payslips of teachers, and the continuous professional development allowance the GES under the current Minister announced long ago but failed to implement, all the other items he flagged have always been captured in previous Collective Agreements. Sadly though, these have largely not been implemented even under the current Minister’s oversight.

 

Is it not under Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh that teachers have suffered the following deprivations?:

 

Cancellation of transfer grants

Teachers who qualify and apply for transfer have been compelled by the GES to sign an Undertaking to forgo their transfer grants as a prerequisite for approval to go on transfer. This is in spite of the fact that transfer grant is one of the conditions in the Collective Agreement. It is an undeniable fact that not a single teacher who has gone on transfer received transfer grant under the administration of Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and his government. Why then the fanfare by the Minister on NET2 TV?

 

Cancellation of Responsibility Allowance

The Minister came to meet a Collective Agreement which allowed teachers who performed additional responsibilities to be paid allowances. Heads of Department, Senior Housemasters, Housemasters, Form masters, Guidance and Counselling Coordinators, etc., were receiving responsibility allowances through the Controller and Accountant General before the change of government in January 2017.

 

Under Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and the NPP, these allowances were taken off the payslips of teachers who passed promotion interviews and had their ranks and salaries upgraded. Under the current Minister, when teachers are promoted, they are presumed to have stopped performing their responsibilities hence the stoppage of their responsibility allowances.

 

The cessation of this allowance gradually went beyond teachers who were promoted to other categories of teachers, and now no teacher receives responsibility allowance anymore.

 

Because elections are approaching, MoE/GES decided to do politics with the welfare of teachers. So in a dispatch dated Thursday 2nd October 2020, and circulated on social media, GES directed teachers to reapply for their responsibility allowances claiming that a virus had corrupted their data. A deadline of Monday 5th October 2020 was given beyond which no application would be tolerated. How possible would a message dated 2nd October at GES headquarters in Accra reach schools to be worked on by 5th October, with documents to be attached, considering the fact that 3rd and 4th October were weekends?

 

Even the letter directing teachers to reapply for the responsibility allowance stated that nonprofessional teachers did not qualify to enjoy the allowance. This decision surely, has set the tone for such teachers to come on a collision course with their heads. Why should nonprofessional teachers accept to perform additional responsibilities for which they will not be paid allowance while their professional colleagues enjoy the benefit? Some departments have also been realigned such that Mathematics is no longer on its own to have a Head of Department. It now forms part of Science Department.

 

Refusal to upgrade teachers to professional status

Since 2016/2017 academic year, teachers who have spent time and money to pursue professional courses in UCC, UEW and other institutions have not been upgraded to professional status. Their applications have been gathering dust at the GES offices since then. The reason is that the MoE and GES don’t have money to pay teachers when upgraded. So how fair is the GES in denying such teachers responsibility allowance for not being professional? They have acquired the professional certificate. Just upgrade them. By this inaction of the GES, another legacy arrears is being piled up for the next administration in 2021 when these teachers are upgraded to their professional status effective the date they acquired their professional statuses.

 

Compulsory National Service and Licensure Exams.

These are other hash policies imposed on new entrants to the Service by the current Minister and NPP Government. These policies deny teachers of employment for two years after completing college. This policy, no doubt, is meant to recoup the meagre allowances given to the teacher trainees while in college.

 

Insulting Teachers

Our memories are not too short to have forgotten how Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh insulted Diploma teachers on TV as block-heads who enter college with poor grades for which reason they do not deserve to be employed by the GES. It is for this reason that he imposed on teachers a licensure examination.

 

Demotion of Heads

Many heads of SHS and about thirty (30) headteachers of basic schools in Greater Accra were also demoted and removed from office under the current Minister for political expediency. How can this man and his government claim they have the welfare of teachers at heart?

 

Refusal to Pay Other Allowances

If Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and his government genuinely believe in the welfare of teachers, he should explain why he didn’t pay night allowance and kilometric allowance to teachers who attended workshops on

 

a) Comprehensive Sexuality Education last year

b). The New Education curriculum

 

c). WASCCE Past questions and Chief Examiners Reports

 

The Minister should also tell us how many teachers benefitted from acting allowance, salary advance, special advance, rent advance, advance for purchase of durable household and additional duty allowance, under him as mentioned on NET2 TV. After all, these allowances were in the previous Collective Agreement.

Salary Advance to purchase vehicle

The Minister again claimed that teachers enjoyed salary advance for the purchase of vehicles during the NPP administration under former President J. A. Kufuor. I challenge him to name just one teacher who enjoyed this salary advance to purchase a vehicle.

 

For the free education of the Minister, it was NAGRAT under my Presidency that wrote a proposal to then Minister of Education Hon. Yaw Osafo Maafo to grant members a waiver on import duty on used vehicles we intended to import for use by our members. This proposal, though favourably received by Hon. Osafo Maafo, did not get through before he left the Ministry.

 

Hon. Paapa Owusu Ankomah who replaced Hon. Osafo Maafo would have nothing to do with our proposal duly handed over to him by his predecessor.

 

It was my former lecturer Hon. Prof. Dominic Fobih, who endorsed the tax waiver which NAGRAT sent to the Ministry of Finance for approval under the late Hon. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu. May his soul rest in the bosom of the Lord.

 

NAGRAT had to seek for loan from the Amal Bank (now Bank of Africa) to purchase the used vehicles for our members which they paid for within a five year period.

 

The claim by Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh that the NPP under President Kufuor granted salary advance to teachers to purchase vehicles is therefore a palpable falsehood.

 

If the Minister doubts my position, he is free to contact former NPP Parliamentary Candidate for Twifo Ati Mokwa Constituency in the Central Region, and now Manager of Exim Bank, Mr. Lawrence Agyensem. He was the officer that NAGRAT dealt with at Amal Bank to contract the loan.

 

So I again ask if the Minister’s pronouncement on NET2 TV was due to a genuine pathetic ignorance or a deliberate propaganda and mischief aimed at hoodwinking teachers for political fortune?

 

Truth be told, there is nothing unprecedented in the Collective Agreement the Minister displayed on NET2 TV.

 

If it is intimidation and harassment of Directors, Heads of school and teachers, then I can accept that Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh is unrivalled.

 

When it comes to creating tension, casting aspersions, making false accusations against his predecessor, John Mahama and other people then I agree the Minister is unparalleled.

 

If it is egoism and disrespect to teachers and for the teaching profession, then the Minister is unequalled.

 

If it is an epitome of diarrhea of words and constipation of ideas, the Minister is unmatched.

 

For making cacophonous noises on TV stations, the Minister’s record is unprecedented.

 

And if it is about politicization of education and curtailing academic freedom through a Public Universities Bill and Pre-tertiary Education Bill, our Education Minister, Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh is a champion unchallenged.

 

#IamaCitizen

 

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