The issue of Teacher Unions of the Pre-Tertiary Institutions in Ghana opposing to the 2019 Pre-Tertiary Education Bill has become a matter of Public Concern.
EducationGhana looked into the emergence of the misunderstanding between the Teacher Unions and the Minister of Education in relation to the Bill which is currently before parliament.
Reports gathered by EducationGhana suggest that the attention of the Pre-tertiary Education Unions-GNAT, NAGRAT, TEWU and CCT-Gh was drawn to paragraph 352, pg. 72 of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2018 Financial Year, which was presented to Parliament on Wednesday, 15th November 2017, which indicated that the Pre-tertiary Education Bill had been reviewed and approved by Cabinet.
Following this, the GNAT, acting on behalf of the Pre-tertiary Education Unions wrote to the Minister of Education, requesting for a copy of the document (see our letter Ref. 0990/VOL.III/41/17, 27th November 2017, Request for Education Bill Approved by Cabinet). Surprisingly, the Minister not only failed to respond to the letter but refused us the document.
2019 Pre-Tertiary Education bill et al
After the 2017 episode of the Education Bill, the attention of the Unions was once again drawn to three Bills which had been laid before Parliament without engagement with, or inputs from the Unions. These were the Pre-tertiary Education Bill, 2019, the Education Regulatory Bill, 2019 and the Complementary Education Bill, 2019.
Teacher Unions’ Response
Teacher Unions in a response to the supposed ‘disrespect’ from the Education Minister, Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, in a statement on April 4, 2020, described his actions as a breach of ILO/UNESCO Recommendations Concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) which encourages social dialogue between partners on such national policies and issues, and therefore raised their voice against it.
”We wish to place it on record that the Pre-tertiary Education Unions, had been requesting for the draft of the Education Bills since 2017, but had been ignored. So we were shocked when we learned that the Bills were being forwarded to Parliament without our inputs. Considering the far-reaching implications, the Bills would have on the Education Service as stipulated in Article 190 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, our teachers and the teaching profession as a whole, once again, we raised our voice in protest.” The Unions said.
”In our quest for a document which would be accepted by all, and whose implementation would not disadvantage our teachers, we entreated Parliament, humbly, to suspend business on the three Bills, and asked that copies be made available to us for our study, analysis and inputs to make them holistic when laid. We wrote to Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament about this (see our letter, Ref. 1422/VOL.IV/22/19, 9th October 2019).”
Parliament Select Committee on Education invites Teacher Unions
On 30th January 2020, the Parliament Select Committee on Education invited the Unions to a meeting on the Pre-tertiary Education Bill, 2019, on Tuesday, 4th February 2020, which the Unions honoured and a follow-up meeting on Wednesday, 12th February 2020 which they again honoured.
Recommendations in the Bill
It was at the 12th February meeting that the Unions were informed that per the Bill, management of education in Ghana would assume the following shape:
Senior High Schools: Would be managed/run by the Regional Education Directorate (Regional Coordinating Councils).
Basic Schools: Would be managed/run by the Metropolitan / Municipal / District Assemblies.The Technical/Vocational Schools: Would be managed/run by their own Director-General, independent of the Ghana Education Service.
Interpretation of the Recommendations
By this arrangement, according to the Unions, therefore: The Ghana Education Service would be shorn of its power/mandate, and now become a feeble coordinator.
They added, that the Teaching Profession would be destabilized., and the Unified Service currently in place would be broken/dismembered. They also said the Unified Condition of Service under which teachers operate would be broken. and Teachers would be manipulated and subjected to the whims and caprices of the Assemblies, and subsequent politicization of the Service.
Teacher Unions reject Education Bill
In the spirit of unity, harmony and organic solidarity, the Pre-tertiary Education Unions expressed their abhorrence for the arrangement and rejected it in no uncertain terms.”We made it crystal clear, that the UNIFIED TEACHING PROFESSION, AS IT EXISTS TODAY, IS NON-NEGOTIABLE!” They said.
”We conveyed this message to the wider Ghanaian Public, by our press conference, held on 14th February 2020.”” In response to our press release, the Ministry insisted that some of the issues we raised did not reflect the provisions of the Bill, and referred us back to the Ministry for engagement on some outstanding matters of concern to us.””This assurance notwithstanding, the Ministry went further to emphasize that Government’s agenda… will not be derailed by sectional interest, and its commitment to pursuing important reforms towards improving learning outcomes in our institutions”
”We found these Statements unfortunate; if attempting to consolidate the united front of teachers, save the Ghana Education Service from politicization and our teachers from manipulation would be deemed sectional interest, we leave that to the judgement of the good people of Ghana.”
”Again, what reform could be more important than carrying along with Teachers, the drivers of the learning process, rather than the veiled attempt to destroy their front and politicize GES?” The Unions asked.
February 27, 2020 Offsite Meeting
According to the Unions, they had not exhausted their options yet, thus they duly attended a day offsite meeting on the Pre-tertiary Education Bill at the City Escape Hotel, Accra on 27th February 2020 (see GES letter, Ref. GES/DG/245/20/067).
The Unions confirmed, Hon. Minister of Education was represented by Dr. Adutwum, Hon. Deputy Minister of Education. At this meeting, the Pre-tertiary education Unions were asked to put their inputs together and submit it to the next meeting for discussion. They were in the process of doing this when the COVID 19 pandemic broke out, and the country went on lockdown. The inclusion of the Pre-tertiary Education Bill in the Order Paper of Friday, 3rd April 2020 to be laid before the Parliament of Ghana for discussion and subsequent passage, therefore, comes to the unions as a rude shock and an exercise of bad faith. ”We wish to reiterate that our stance is no derailment of Government’s agenda, neither is it sectional, for the President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Darkwa Akufo Addo himself recognizes that we (the Pre-tertiary education Unions) have concerns over the Pre-Tertiary Education Bill 2019 (see State of the Nation Address, 2020).” They indicated.
Teacher Unions call for Suspension of Bill
”We hereby call on Parliament to suspend all deliberations on the Bill, until all issues between us (the Pre-tertiary Education Unions) and the Ministry of Education have been resolved, to the satisfaction of us all.””We caution that should Parliament not heed our call, but go ahead with the discussions and eventual passage of the Bills, Leadership of the Unions would not be able to control the actions or inactions of our members, and the Ministry of Education may have itself to blame, in the end.” The Unions cautioned. ”We wish to sound further that our members in all the regions have already served notice to this effect through their various press conferences, that they would resist the imposition of the Pre-tertiary Education Bill 2019 in no uncertain terms.” The Unions concluded.