The evolving issue of fake teacher certification embarrasses all of us, including the Ghana Education Service (GES).
Why would anyone, in the first place, decide to enter a noble profession like teaching with a fake certificate at all? The GES and the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) still collaborate to remove charlatans from the payroll of the Service. They need our support to achieve that. Sanity must prevail in our schools and classrooms.
The GES has assured us of its resolve to pursue all falsified elements on its payroll through the law courts. Meanwhile, contingency arrangements are being made to fill vacancies that exist in the Service and in the affected schools. The final national report is yet to come out but we are told that Brong Ahafo and Volta regions have identified close to 200 fake teachers so far. Do we have any human institution which is 100 per cent perfect at all? I do not think so! The GES is a human institution with large staff size and function. It has many officers and directors who behave differently. As some are genuinely working to see the agency develop, others may want to cut corners in order to make it in life. It is, therefore, not impossible to see some people enter or being aided to enter the Service through fraudulent means. Actually, it is sincerity and patriotism that can save this system of ours!
The GES is not absorbing itself entirely from this development. It is bent on doing stringent investigation and finding a lasting antidote to it. The days of the blame game have died out; it is hard work, vigilance and professionalism that we need to eliminate the rest of the excesses and to put things right. Assisting qualified and interested people to be trained as teachers and following the right procedure to recruit them upon successful completion of their courses of study must be the way to go.
The fact that some of our deprived rural districts are in dire need of teachers should not be the justification for accepting just anybody to act as a teacher. It is true that some professional teachers do not readily accept postings to the hinterlands. There is the argument that since every classroom must have a teacher, authorities sometimes relax the system for anybody at all who is interested in teaching to get recruited.
Sometimes, an officer is pushed to tamper professional procedure of recruitment with familiarity, mercy and ‘protocol’ just because the unqualified person has been introduced to him by a big man or chief of the society. In some rural areas, you dare not reject an appeal for employment made by a chief; you have to give it out in order to save your life and position. Just imagine how an appeal from a district chief executive or Member of Parliament would look like and expected to be treated!
Apart from the about 9,000 teachers who are usually posted from the colleges of education and universities annually, the Ministry of Education through the Ministry of Finance also give quota for recruitment. It usually reaches the rural districts with relatively short deadlines. This puts strain on some directors, thereby, affecting proper scrutiny and verification of documents of applicants prior to recruitment.
Lack of qualified staff for standardized recruitment and selection process has also been identified as the root cause of fake teacher recruitment. McFarland (1968) defines recruitment as the process of attracting potential employees to a company or organisation. Recruitment precedes selection process. According to Gupta (2006), selection is a process of choosing suitable persons out of a pool of applicants. In this process, relevant information about an applicant is collected through series of steps so as to evaluate their suitability for the job on offer. Recruitment and selection is normally done by officers with in-depth knowledge in human resource and relevant fields. Inadequacy of such officers in our districts usually leads to selection of applicants with doubtful certificates, among other things. To suggest that funds should be made available to hire professionals to take these applicants through the rigorous selection process is just a mere impossibility because such officers are not easy to find in rural districts.
Our system lacks requisite tools and strict mechanisms for detecting fake certificates. It was until recently that the West African Examinations Council started printing certificates with pictures of candidates embossed on them. Apart from that there are no other ways of detecting fake certificates especially when candidates seeking jobs show up with original certificates of their relatives or friends. Since there is now little chance for anybody to join the service with the West African Senior Secondary Certificate, the issue of anybody entering the system with a fake certificate can easily be curtailed. Most job seekers now hold at least a Diploma in Basic Education, which is deemed to have been earned from institutions of repute. I suggest that pictures of graduates are also embossed on those certificates that are awarded by tertiary institutions.
White-colour jobs are difficult to find these days. Most people do all that they can to secure employment and teaching is no exception. Teaching is done in almost every part of the country, thereby, making it much more vulnerable to invasion by fake individuals than any other profession one can think of. The system must be allowed to follow due diligence in all of its operations and we must all be wide alert to expose individuals who are just among us to spoil things. Classroom teaching is a professional service reserved for professionals and it must remain so!
By KanzoniAwaala Donald ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
The writer is a Northern Regional Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Education Service.
Reviewed by Anthony KwakuAmoah, an educationist and Public Relations Officer at the Headquarters of the Ghana Education Service (E-mail: email@example.com)