It is without doubt that in the run -up to the 2008, 2012 and 2016 general elections, the major issue that defined political campaigning in Ghana was the issue of education and the need to make Senior High education free for Ghanaian children.

The issue became so dominant in campaign messages that for a political party not to make a statement about it was almost suicidal to the fortunes of such a political party. From NPP to NDC, CPP to PNC, UGCC to GCPP, PPP to independent candidates, and even, Madam Akua Donkor’s Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), everybody tried to at least, dedicate a section of their manifesto to the issue. Also, the issue became so important to the extent that everybody was claiming ownership of the policy except the one who brought it into the political limelight, Nana Akufo – Addo.

Notable among such personalities was Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, the then flagbearer of the CPP who claimed he was the first to put it out there. For some other political parties, the issue of Free SHS was a constitutional requirement and so it was out of place for anybody to claim ownership of the policy. But every objective person knows that if the subject  became that important in Ghanaian socio – political discussions, then the one to take the credit for it  should be the NPP’s Nana Akufo – Addo then, who today, is our president; even though he personally did not claim any such ownership.

As a matter of fact, whether it is constitutionally stipulated or not, the only person who brought it into the limelight was Nana Addo. To prove that he was serious about it, he was the only one who was very  consistent about implementing such a policy because he made it his major policy in all three major elections; nobody else did. The NDC version of it was to make it progressively free. By God’s grace, they won both the 2008 and the 2012 elections and everybody witnessed the kind of progressively free SHS Ghanaian children were offered.

On his part, the NPP’s Nana Akufo – Addo, on one of his platform messages in the run – up to the 2016 elections, when translated from the Twi he spoke, and which I have the audio of, he said ”The new economy we are coming to build requires that all our children get the opportunity to go to school. I have said it before and I am saying it again; We are going to bring free secondary education to the children of our country to prepare our country for a new economy and a new era. Also, we are going to deliberately work on teachers so that we can get well paid teachers with better conditions of service in order to enable them teach our children better. That is the NPP’s educational policy”.

The then flagbearer of today’s ruling party recognized that the main reason for our under development is the failure of most Ghanaian children to be educated due to inability to afford same – thereby denying the nation of the required human capital to propel its growth and development; hence, the need to implement the Free SHS policy.

According to him, if every citizen is able to have a minimum of SHS education, it will better serve the nation than the  status quo, where most children’s education terminates at the JHS level and others at the primary school level. True to his word, it was carried in President Akufo – Addo’s maiden budget which was presented by the minister of finance to Ghana’s parliament on the 2nd of March, 2017, that the Free SHS would begin in September of the same year.

Unfortunately, the same budget failed to capture the plans to take the teacher out of his current predicament. Maybe, such plans are in the pipeline. But how can the teacher know that such plans are in the pipeline if he has not been told so?  Besides, can’t somebody also come with the Akan saying that ”It is when one swims in the river very early  that his eyes redden”? Definitely, one will not be faulted for saying so. Because when the Free SHS  policy was captured, one would have thought that the same budget would have captured comprehensive plans to place teachers on a higher pedestal since that was also carried in Nana Akufo – Addo’s campaign message.

Much as I agree with President Akufo – Addo on his linkage of Ghana’s underdevelopment to the average level of education of its citizens, I think the reason for our under development goes even further.

I would like to state emphatically and without any equivocation that no matter the amount of resources channelled into education, if the welfare of the main implementers of the government’s educational policies – that is,  the teacher, is not taken a critical look at and addressed, our situation could be likened to pouring water on rocks; there will be no effect. In the same way, we will be channelling huge resources into education without reaping proportional benefits if the teacher who implements the educational policies is not respected as is the situation today.

Curriculum planners and designers finish their work on the curriculum and dump everything on the teacher to implement it as if he (the teacher) was consulted in the planning and designing processes. It is this disrespect, coupled with unfavourable working conditions, poor remuneration, limited opportunities to go higher up the ladder for a teacher in Ghana Education Service, etc, that have conspired together to bring about Ghana’s current state of development. I bet everybody that if the teacher is empowered in all respects, the story of this country will be told in a better way.

So in as much as I agree that Free SHS should be implemented, I also agree that the teacher should be taken more serious by the powers that be, else, the policy and any other educational reform policy cannot achieve its desired goal. Let us not forget that the politicians who pride themselves with the kind of knowledge they have attained were all taught by teachers . The doctor, the nurse, the accountant, the soldier, the police, the journalist and all the other decent professionals anybody can talk about rode on the back of the teacher to get to their current state.

Let us also not forget that the aforementioned professionals and others who have not been mentioned are those who hold every country’s economy and that if the teacher who taught them is not regarded, then we are indirectly putting our economy in danger. All professionals can boast; but it is an indisputable fact that the teacher taught them all.

By teacher, I am not referring only to university lecturers;  for they are the only ones government respects as though when a child is born,  he never passes  through the basic and secondary levels, but even for them, it is not any better.

Also, to prevent teachers in GES from going further up the ladder, certificates only up to first degree are regarded as Master degree holders are not upgraded. Until these injustices which teachers have been subjected to are reversed, any government with any educational policy should forget about success –  including Free Senior High Education.

I urge all teacher associations :GNAT, NAGRAT, CCT, TEWU, UTAG,   POTAG, etc. to press the powers that be to seek the proper welfare of the teacher and their agenda should be ”NOW OR NEVER; THE TEACHER DESERVES BETTER”

Also, I humbly call on the president to do something significant. I mean something significant for the teacher before the end of his first term and they will forever be thankful to him. To end with, I would like to say that if you can read all that has been written above, thank the teacher.

Long live Free SHS, long live Ghana Education Service, long live Ghana.

Felix Nyarko Acheampong – Kyebi.

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