I’m getting worked up to wake up again to hear that some major teacher unions have proceeded on strike for the seemingly frivolous reason that the new Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Dr Eric Nkansah, is not one from their stock. Apparently, the teacher unions want the new Director-General, who replaces Professor Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, against whom they demonstrated in similar fashion when appointed, to have some classroom experience to be able to fit well in the position. I’m gutted by this reason by our teachers and the ensuing argument will seek to justify my reasons. May be, it is lost on our teachers that what is taught in the classroom is not what applies on the ground and that someone with no experience can perform equally as someone with experience in a field. We need to think outside the box, my dear teachers. Your strike is unwarranted!
First of all, the mere fact that someone has no experience in a field does not mean he cannot execute a mandate in that field. We have had a hundred and one experiences in this nation to come to that conclusion. The late Retired Major Courage Quashigah had little-to-no experience in the field agriculture when he was named the sector minister by then President John Agyekum Kufuor. As old as some of the leaders of the teacher unions are, I thought this and many other examples should have dawned on them. Major (rtd) Quashigah won world-wide acclaim and awards for serving so well as the Minister of Food and Agriculture to the extent that former President Kufuor, even when he went out of office, was engaged by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in some of its advocacy campaigns. The late retired officer’s role was highly commended by all and it began calls for ministers to be reshuffled irrespective of experience in some fields as they were seen to have the capability to perform better in fields they least have knowledge on. And it is true! Even in the current administration, there are some ministers who have little-to-no knowledge in their sectors but are performing not badly at all. An example is the Minister of Energy, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who is a medical doctor. In the throes of the current economic challenges, power has been constant in Ghanaian homes and I am sure that has minimised the bashing the government would have received for the current crisis.
So, come to Dr Eric Nkansah, it is not even the case that he has no knowledge in the teaching field. The man has over 15 years in academia and education policy administration. He also attended many educational conferences (both local and international), including conferences organized by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). He also became a full-time lecturer and later Senior Lecturer at Kumasi Technical University (KsTU) and a part-time lecturer at the Graduate School of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). He is said to have contributed immensely to teaching, research, programme development, and other academic work to the development of these universities. He was then appointed to the Ministry of Education in April 2021. So, what are the teacher unions talking about? Or do they expect the Director-General of the GES to go to the classroom to teach, a practice some of these union leaders even no longer do effectively, and not rather administer policy as expected of the GES Director General? Even if they want that, is Dr Nkansah not higher than some of them in terms of academic qualification? You see, the issue is not about the DG of GES but rather about the fact that they felt left out in the appointment of Dr Nkansah. And to add salt to injury the Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, justified the process at a public forum, hunting of not giving the teachers any listening. This is the crux of the strike.
From an interview on TV3’s New Day on Monday, November 7, 2022, when the strike took full effect, the General Secretary of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), Thomas Musah, emphasised that the teacher unions are on strike not targeting Dr Nkansah. So, who is their target? The sector minister? No wonder some teachers have contested the motive of this strike, drawing the attention of their leaders to the numerous predicaments in the field for which an industrial action is long overdue. It is obvious the teacher unions just want to show their collective labour power and this is disingenuous on their part.
There are contradictions in each reason the teachers adduce for the strike. Claiming the new GES DG has no experience, another who has the needed experience and serving as the Deputy DG, Anthony Boateng, is being called upon by these same teacher unions to go as part of their demands. To them, the extension of contract for Mr Boateng is a no-no. These contradictions leave one to only conclude that the teachers are playing politics and only shirking their responsibilities. I couldn’t agree more with one teacher who went to the classroom on Day 1 of the strike to teach by saying that there are more pressing issues that require addressing by the unions than this reason of removal of the new GES boss.
Think outside the box! That is a mantra every well-meaning teacher will impose on their student. The mere fact that you are trained as a journalist does not mean you can’t train to be a pilot. Most of the Ghanaians who travel to Cuba are put on the same scale irrespective of the courses they pursued at the secondary school level. You can be an arts student and these Cubans can make a fine doctor out of you. The mere fact that a person is a banker does not mean that that person can’t head the GES. The demand by the teacher unions tells me how they think and that thought is, unfortunately, what they impose on our kids in the classrooms. With this thinking, how can the kids even change professions when they feel strongly about a change? How can someone pushed into engineering by his parents change course later to become a lecturer, for instance? The example our teachers should rather be for all is to welcome such a person and teach him. They must prove as teachers that you can be trained as a student in any profession at all provided you are up for the task.
In the case of Dr Eric Nkansah, the teacher unions have got it all wrong.
My aggrieved teacher union leaders, the earlier you call off the strike, the better for all including your dear students!
By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh
The writer is the Editor-In-Chief for 3news.com.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in the above article do not reflect the editorial policies of 3news.com.