SCRAP SANDWICH COURSES IF THEY ARE NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE; A MESSAGE TO THE GES.

The kind of treatment meted out to teachers studying under the sandwich mode, is a classical illustration of the assertion that Ghana is not a nation worth dying for.

It is unfathomable why teachers can be deceived into pursuing a course of study which, even though, universities have been given accreditation to run, certificates of teachers who pursue that course eventually end up on ‘refuse dumps.’ This is because an institution which just finds delight in flexing its muscles on its subjects, the Ghana Education Service (GES), concludes, based on unscientific and unresearched processes, that such certificates cannot be put to the use for which they were acquired, apart from being used for salary upgrading. I am referring to certificates of Bachelor of Education (Bed) in various subject areas (English language, Mathematics, Science,  Social Studies, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), etc.) acquired through the sandwich mode that qualify teachers to teach in Senior High Schools (SHS’s).

After graduating from Colleges of Education, teachers put themselves into three different groups. The first group constitutes those who decide not to worry themselves at all about furthering their education because, according to them, there is not much profit in so doing. The second group is made up of teachers who decide to further their studies through the regular mode, and so obtain study leave and go to campus to pursue their courses. The last group comprises teachers who remain in the classroom, and at the same time, utilize their vacation holidays to achieve higher academic and professional excellence. That is to say, they pursue their courses during this resting period. This kind of schooling is what is referred to as studies through the sandwich mode.

Which of these groups can, comparatively, be said to be ‘killing’ themselves for Mother Ghana? Is it  those who obtain study leave, abandon the classroom and go to study in the comfort of their campuses through the subsidized and cheaper regular mode; or those who decide to stay in the classroom and acquire their degree through the rather unsubsidized, more expensive and very stressful sandwich mode? Factually speaking, this praise befits the ‘sandwich teachers’ who do not abandon their jobs, and so do not create any vacuum in the classroom for the state to fill – thereby saving government of additional resources which would, hitherto, have been used to employ other other teachers to fill this vacuum. But ironically, they are also the most punished. I am not for a moment trying to compare the two for comparison sake, or put those who go by the regular mode in bad light. Everyone has a choice and that is what they pursue. My main worry, however, is about the GES’s preferential treatment of the ‘regular teacher’ as against his ‘sandwich counterpart,’ even though the former  does not hold any better certificate than the latter – as both certificates carry equal weight. They both cover the same course outline, cover the same number of credit hours, are subjected to the same strict invigilation during examinations, complete the same project work, and are measured on the same GPA and class honours after completion of their courses. So why this discrimination? Why is the goose being treated differently from the gander?

The GES has succeeded in deliberately drumming into the ears of the general public that teachers who study on the sandwich mode tend to be non-performing when they are finally given classes to teach. Much as I agree that non-performing workers should not be allowed to work in any institution, I find it very difficult to accept that this rather demeaning, derogatory and deliberately carved accusation should be laid at the doorsteps of ‘sandwich teachers’ without basing same on any scientific research. Or can any proof be provided of any such research conducted to come to this conclusion? Is the GES saying that all sandwich teachers are not performing, and that all regular teachers are performing? What an ill-fated argument to make. Why can’t teachers be taken through a series of exercises to ascertain how  efficient they would be before being given the green light to teach? Perhaps, if this exercise were done and done very efficiently, we would know whom the cab fits, rather than just refuse teachers entry merely based on the mode of education they opted for.

The directive GES has sent out is that if any teacher aspires to teach in the SHS, such a fellow should apply for study leave and go to campus to pursue his course on the regular mode. The service has also sent out directive that teachers who obtain their certificates through the sandwich mode will not be offered an opportunity to teach at the SHS level. My simple question is that what then becomes of the certificates of those ‘sandwich teachers’ who either completed their courses or were at various levels of completion of their courses before the said directive was issued? What this means is that if a student, green from SHS, gets admission to the university to pursue a course in education, such a fellow who has never had a taste of the use of a chalkboard, is even regarded more qualified to teach at SHS level than another who has gone through the College of Education system and taught in the basic school for sometime before acquiring a Bed certificate via the sandwich mode. Does this argument gel? 

Ironically, all this is happening against the backdrop of shortage of teachers in various  subject areas across second cycle schools. It may interest you to learn that at the same time that sandwich certificates are being disregarded, the same GES, in an attempt to fill vacuums in subject areas, has recruited teachers some of whom are even teaching subjects other than what they pursued at the university, and for that matter, are qualified to teach in our second cycle institutions. That is to say, the subjects they teach have little or no bearing at all on the courses they pursued at the university. Do you know that some of these newly recruited teachers only attended Polytechnics, which are not even recognized for running courses in education? Would you be astonished if I told you that some of these teachers have been recruited in connection with the NABCO (Nation Builders’ Corp) policy without prior consideration of what qualifications they held? Let us be truthful to ourselves; which of those described above can be deemed more qualified than the one who has already acquired the experience of teaching after College of Education before upgrading himself through the sandwich programme?

My worry is that if the GES considers sandwich courses unfit for purpose, why have they not initiated any process aimed at collaborating with the National Accreditation Board (NAB) to withdraw the accreditation that empowers the universities to run these courses? Even if that is to be done, what then happens to the ‘sandwich teachers’ who have already been absorbed by the system? Were their certificates that bad and yet were employed? Or is it the case that even though there are no issues with the sandwich courses, the GES just wants to hide behind truth and deliberately discredit certificates acquired through due process?

In the light of all the above, one thing I am so much disturbed about is the seeming loud silence of university administrators as well as teacher unions in the wake of this directive by the GES. Why have the universities not taken this issue up, at least, for the benefit of their products who spend huge sums to earn themselves such certificates? I think they should take it upon themselves to interrogate these issues very well. Also, the teacher unions, I think, should take this matter up very seriously since certificates of their members are being reduced to nothing through no faults of theirs.

I urge the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT), the Teachers’ and Educational workers’ Union (TEWU), and all stakeholders concerned, to act with the speed of light on this issue before things get out of hand. These are some of the vexed matters in which the intervention of these unions is very much needed. 

Long live GES, long live Ghana. Felix Nyarko Acheampong – ghanaeducate.com.

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