TEACHER KWAMI ALORVI ASKS ON BEHALF OF GHANAIAN TEACHERS: LORD JESUS, WHY CHOOSE FOR US THE WRONG PROFESSION?
QUOTE FOR REFLECTION:
“The Lord looked at my work and He was pleased. He then looked at my salary, He bowed down His head, turned away and wept”
God choose Ghanaian teachers for the wrong profession
Friday, 9th July 2021, brought back into memory the quote above, which ran through most of the speeches delivered by leadership during the October 2006 nationwide teachers strike championed by NAGRAT christened the “Destiny Strike”
On my way to a function on Friday 9th July 2021, I had a phone call from one of Ghana’s finest and renowned Economists. He asked: “Headmaster, would you be kind enough to let me know how much the monthly salary of a Headmaster is?” My response drew two surprises from the good Professor of Economics.
First, he was surprised to learn that I was no more a Headmaster and that I had gone on compulsory retirement more than six years ago. He said “but you are too young to go on retirement.” By the way, my age is not the focus of this article.
The second surprise, or rather shock to the Economics Professor was when I told him that at the time of my exit from the GES (after 39 years and five months uninterrupted service) in February 2018, post retirement contract period inclusive, my Single Spine Salary monthly gross was less than Ghc3,000.00. In fact the actual monthly gross, when I came home to check, was Ghc2,885.23 and the net monthly salary was Ghc2,442.94. The Professor couldn’t believe it. So I decided to cross check from two colleague headmasters currently in the system. One said her net salary was around Ghc2,700.00 while the other said his was less than Ghc2,800.00!! The Economics Professor was shocked.
|Audio: Don’t expect to be millionaires as teachers–Nana Addo to Teachers
Less than half an hour after that interaction on phone with the Professor, another call came from a friend Engineer who runs his private business, on the same issue. He was equally shocked. He then proceeded to find out how much my pension was after retirement. “Thirty five thousand Cedis (Ghc35,000.00)” I replied, sending another shock wave down the spine of the Engineer cum Businessman. Yes, my lump sum from SSNIT after my retirement in December 2015 was Ghc35,000.00!
I challenged SSNIT on the computations and ended up at the SSNIT Headquarters in Accra with a petition, or rather a protest letter. After three months or so, SSNIT accepted that there was error in their computations but added only Ghc5,000.00 to the amount. I decided not continue the fight when I was told that my Tier 2 pension was with Gemini Life Insurance Company, GLICO.
In 2019, retired teachers in Central Region where I retired were asked to go to GLICO Office in Cape Coast to fill a Claim Form titled “GES OCCUPATIONAL PENSION SCHEME” with documents including our retirement letters from GES, SSNIT ID, Voter ID, SSNIT acknowledgement letter of Pension payment, etc., etc. More than 2000 applicants registered ahead of me when I got there.
Six years after retirement, and three years after filling that Tier 2 claim form, GLICO has not paid teachers their claims. The answer we always received from the officials of the Cape Coast office had been that they were working on it. Later we learnt that the Owners of GLICO have strong affiliation with the party in government so government is shielding the Company from fulfilling its obligation towards its clients. GLICO should know that their protective government will not be in power into perpetuity. A day of reckoning will surely come.
Are the leadership of the teacher unions, GNAT, NAGRAT and CCT reading this article? If they are, we want them to chase our Tier 2 pensions for us. You have the strength to wage this war for your retirees. I heard the Universities too are complaining that theirs are also not being paid. Na sika no wɔ hen?
God choose Ghanaian teachers for the wrong profession. Are we safe?
With these narratives to my friend the Engineer on phone, he became angry and threw a lot of salvos at me:
“Thirty five thousand Cedis after over 37 years in the GES?”
“Why are you teachers quiet in this country when you are being cheated?”
“And why accept a 4% salary increase for 2021 because the government says there is no money while the President is going to pay his wife and the wife of his Vice over Ghc32,000.00 per month for no work done?”
“And he is even going to back date the salaries to January 2017?”
At this point I had to cut the line after telling my angry friend I was driving and would call him back when I arrived at my destination. I didn’t call back because I clearly understood his concerns and fury.
My sadness never ended there. When I arrived at my destination, I decided to scroll through my WhatsApp messages. A news item caught my attention. It was captioned “Teaching is not a job to do to become rich; do other side jobs”- President Akufo Addo to GNAT Leaders, and they clapped” Shocked about this disturbing news item, I decided to look for the video of the President speaking to GNAT to ascertain for myself the authenticity of the news item. True to what I read, the President said “I don’t think anywhere in the world, people go into teaching expecting to become millionaires, and make money. If you want to do that, you do other things.”
Upon hearing those words from the first Gentleman of the nation concerning what he perceives the teaching profession, and for that matter, teachers to be, my anger heightened to an excruciating crescendo. I then understood the angry words spewed at me, and to teachers, by my friend the Engineer and Businessman. On my bed, the words, “why are you teachers quiet” kept echoing in my mind till tiredness and sleep took over my body and I fell asleep.
In contrast to President Akufo Addo’s perception of teachers, a news item on “Fox News” I read that Friday 9th July, mentioned American President Joe Biden as saying to the teacher unions that the Corona Virus pandemic had given America’s parents the “ultimate education” on the challenges of the teaching profession. “But even more, the last year has proved that teachers across the U. S. deserve higher pay”, Joe Biden was quoted to have said.
Even the former Minister of Education, Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who initially showed some disdain towards teachers, recognised the important roles of teachers during the pandemic. He drew the attention of parents to the suffering they went through during the lockdown when school children were at home. He implored parents to respect teachers.
The oldest profession, I learnt, is Teaching, the profession of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Even His enemies (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, etc.) called him “Teacher.” (Mat.9:11; 12:38; 17:24; 22:26; 24:36; and many other verses in Mark). Matthew 4:3 for instance talks about Jesus going through all Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom.
As a result, or even in spite of that, Teaching is regarded as a noble profession. Indeed the “Nobility” in France was a privileged social class during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to the French revolution in 1790. The highest nobles as we learnt from European History those days in sixth Form and at the University, were the “Peers” (which included titles as Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount and Baron) and other lower ranks as Knight and Esquire. These French Nobles were required to among other things, counsel the King.
So it was too in the past in Ghana, that teachers did not only teach in the formal education sector; they were Secretaries and Interpreters to the chiefs, Kings and other personalities as well.
So important is the teacher that the Canadian Teachers Association has this message for their fellow Canadians, “IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK A TEACHER.” The Ghana National Association of Teachers, GNAT, also has this to say: “ALL PROFESSIONALS CAN BOAST, BUT THE TEACHER TAUGHT THEM ALL.” But gradually, the status and value of the teacher in Ghana has been devalued by Politicians. Teachers remuneration and other conditions of service have never gotten the attention of politicians in Ghana. That is known to even the newest teacher in Ghana and we lived, and continue to live, by it. But the scandalous and despicable open declaration by the President of the Republic that if teachers want to be rich, they should do other things will go down in history as the most treacherous and scathing attack on teachers by a sitting President of Ghana.
Does His Excellency the President know that some teachers already abandon the classrooms to do courses that they hope will take them out of the teaching profession? That is one cause of teacher absenteeism. Is he also aware that some teachers cut classes to do other activities such as trading, farming, galamsey and extra classes just to make ends meet? Now that the President has endorsed those extra activities, we should expect empty classrooms in the days ahead. Considering the fact that the same President is trying to smuggle his wife into the beneficiaries of Article 71 holders and even back date these benefits to January 2017, this statement about the teaching profession is unfortunate. No doubt, the President is offering Ghanaian workers a 4% increase in salary this year. Very pathetic!
The negative perception about teachers
This negative perception about teachers brings to mind an article I once read about a rich King. The King invited his citizens to a durbar to celebrate his 50th year on the throne. He brought a chimpanzee in a cage to the durbar ground and promised to gift a third of the value of his estate to anyone who would succeed in doing three things:
1. Make the chimpanzee laugh
2. Make the chimpanzee angry and frown his face
3. Make the chimpanzee go back into his cage.
The Chimp was then brought out of the cage by one of the King’s attendants. Many people including Animal Behaviourists, Psychologists, Medical Professionals, Accountants, Engineers, Lawyers, all tried but none could move the chimpanzee to do any of the three things laid down by the King.
As the crowd became frustrated and began to file out of the durbar ground, a slim well dressed man stepped forward. The people yelled at him to clear off. After all, the most important people in society had tried and failed, so what was he coming to do? They murmured. But the King gave the young man the chance. One, two, three steps forward, and the young man whispered something into the ear of the chimpanzee. It became amused and gave the man an approving nod with a broad smile.
The crowd went into a hysteria as the young man stepped back. “You’ve got it, go ahead to make the Chimpanzee frown his face”, the King told the young man. The crowd went into a loud silence. Three steps again and the young man whispered into the ear of the chimpanzee and it became sad and frowned the face.
The excitement of the crowd reached a fever pitch. The third whisper of the man into the ear of the chimpanzee got the ape angry and it ran into his cage and slammed to door. A great uproar swept through the crowd.
The King now asked the young man to tell him and the people what he whispered into the ear of the Chimpanzee on each occasion. The man spoke:
1. “Your Eminence, I first told the Chimpanzee I am a teacher; that I taught all the people – the lawyers, Animal Behaviourists, Accountants, Medical Doctors, etc. – who attempted but failed. I told the Chimp I taught you our King also. The chimpanzee was pleased with my work and smiled in appreciation.”
2. “After that, Your Royal Highness, I told the chimpanzee how little my salary is despite the great job I do, and it got dissatisfied and hence frowned its face”
3. “Your Eminence, I finally invited the Chimpanzee to bring an application letter to be employed as a teacher. That angered it and it hurried back into his cage and slammed the gate.”
The crowd lifted the young man shoulder high with jubilation.
The story above depicts the pitiful condition of teachers in Ghana. When we ask our students the profession they wish to pursue, like the chimpanzee, we are always distressed to learn that none expresses the willingness to become a teacher. Oh Lord Jesus, why choose the wrong profession for us?
In the days of our second cycle education, we took the position in our debating societies that “Education is better than money.” Now as teachers and educators, we now realise we were wrong then. Oh money, forgive us; we knew not what we were saying. We also used to argue that “the Pen is mightier than the Sword.” But now that we are being killed by the gun, the advanced cousin of the sword, we again confess that we took the wrong position. AK 47, you who replaced the deadly sword, accept our apology. We were wrong; you and your elder brother the Sword are mightier than Education.
I leave His Excellency the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo with these great words of Guy Kawasaki: “If you want to put someone on a pedestal, put teachers. They are the society’s heroes.”
In conclusion, I repeat the question I posed in my article of Monday 1st January 2020, “Which God created Teachers?”
DATED: SUNDAY 11TH JULY 2021