A restoration or an extortion: Alorvi writes on current teacher trainee allowance

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Minutes after the selection of Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang H. E. John Mahama as his running mate in the December 2020 elections, some elements in the country, rushed to grab pick axes, shovels and stolen excavators to dig the ground looking for materials they could use to smear the respected Professor. One such material the diggers claimed to have discovered in their search was
a cancellation of teacher trainee allowance.

The ruling party’s Director of Communications at a press conference claimed the respected Professor, the first female to have headed a Public University in Ghana, and who left indelible footprints on Ghana’s education as Minister, is not fit to be a running mate. His reason was that teacher and nurse trainee allowances were cancelled during her tenure as Minister.

This statement was repackaged in a “press statement” released in the names of a Rebecca Opoku, a supposed nurse with contact number 0542012041 and a Portia Boateng, a supposed teacher, with contact number 0543051049, as Spokesperson and Coordinator respectively, of Teachers and Nurses Trainee Association.

It is very strange however, that Rebecca Badu Opoku, in whose name the sim number 0542012041 was registered, and Portia Boateng Mireku, in whose name the sim number 0543051049 was registered, forgot their real names and left out Badu and Mireku respectively. Was the supposed press release written for, and issued by, others in the names of the two ladies? If not, how could they have forgotten their real names?
Thank God, the so called press release signed under such amorphous titles and suspicious names was quickly rubbished a press statement issued the real leaders of the Teacher Trainees Association, Nasrullah Mutawakil, the President, Ayitey Samuel, Secretary, and Joseph Boakye the PRO. Their statement hailed the nomination of Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang John Mahama as an excellent decision.

What are the facts about the teacher trainee allowance? Was it really cancelled as being alleged?
Is it now really a restoration or an extortion?

The teacher trainee allowance which operated for many years, limited admission into the Colleges of Education under a draconian quota system. Colleges of Education could only admit less than 40% of qualified applicants under the quota system thus denying many qualified applicants the chance of advancing their dreams of becoming professional teachers. To solve this problem and provide more access, H. E. John Dramani Mahama decided to substitute the allowance which was around Ghc640.00 per month, with an enhanced student loan scheme with a huge increase in the amount. Another factor that influenced the decision to substitute the allowance was that, the Colleges of Education had been upgraded into degree awarding institutions.

It is a fact that there are also teacher trainees at the University of Education, Winneba; University of Cape Coast; University of Ghana, Legon; and the other public universities. All these teacher trainees were not, and are still not, taking allowance but depend on the students loan. So substitution of the trainee allowance with the student loan scheme was meant to eliminate the discrimination as well as provide more access to the Colleges of Education. It thus presented a level field for all teacher trainees, irrespective of which institutions they were being trained in.

This substitution of the allowance carried with it absorption of the feeding cost and utility bills of the trainees the Ministry.
In addition to the above, the automatic recruitment of teacher trainees after graduation would continue.

The policy raised student intake into the Colleges of Education from around 9,500 to about 15,561, an increase of over 63% in its first year of implementation. The policy was well intended but it was politically twisted to create disaffection for John Mahama.
Thus, the cacophonous chorus that Professor Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang cancelled the teacher trainee allowance without admitting its substitution with an enhanced student loan scheme is a dishonest distortion of the facts about the trainee allowance.

Now let’s analyze the cacophony about the allowance being restored Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word Restore as “return to a previous condition, place or owner” (my emphasis). It also defines Extort as “obtain force, threats or other unfair means” (my emphasis).

1. Under Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang as Minister, the teacher trainee allowance was around Ghc640.00 per month. It was paid for twelve calendar months. This would amount to Ghc7,680.00 per annum.
2. The trainees, after completion and passing their exams, were to be automatically recruited into the Ghana Education Service.
3. They would thus begin to earn their monthly salaries just after completing college and start counting how many years they had to serve on the job to qualify for promotion through interview.
4. There was no compulsory national service, followed a teacher licensure examination, to qualify them as professional teachers after passing their professional college examinations.
5. Nothing, in cumulative terms, denied the teacher of two years salary due to compulsory national service and a licensure examination.

Under the current dispensation as a professional degree holder (not a diploma), the teacher trainee should be earning a monthly net salary of Ghc1,911.50 (annual net salary of Ghc22,938.00) in his/her first year after graduation.
This net salary would have increased 10% (average annual salary increase) to Ghc2,102.65 per month in the second year in the absence of a teacher licensure examination after national service.

But under Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh as current Minister, and under a restored allowance:
a) Teacher trainees receive Ghc240.00 as allowance per month as against Ghc640.00 per month as it was under Professor. This is a loss of Ghc400.00 per month. This is not a restoration (a return to a previous condition)

b) Teacher trainees are now paid for only eight (8) months as against the 12 months that used to be under the good Professor, a loss of 4 months. Again, this does not qualify as a restoration the operational definition above. This Ghc240.00 for eight months sum up to only Ghc1,920.00 per year under the current Minister as against Ghc7,680.00 under Prof Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang before the allowance was substituted with the loan scheme. This is an extortion, as defined the Oxford Dictionary as “obtain by….. unfair means”.
Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh and his Ministry argue that, the teacher trainees spend 8 months in school, and the remaining 4 months on vacation. This means they cease to be students when they are on vacation hence, the allowance for only 8 months.

c) Under the so called restored allowance, teacher trainees are compelled to do a compulsory one year national service after passing their professional examinations in college, their one year internship off campus not withstanding. The argument for this is that the Colleges are now tertiary and degree awarding institutions, so they must do national service. The question then is, why do they take allowance instead of loans as the other tertiary students do? At any rate, which teacher trainees in any tertiary institutions are doing one year internship teaching as those in the Colleges of Education?

d) Under Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh’s national service, the teachers are paid an allowance of Ghc550.00 per month as compared with Ghc1,911.50 per month salary they would have been taking under automatic recruitment without national service. This is an extortion – obtaining “force, threats or other unfair means.”
e) Under Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, the teachers are compelled to write and pass a teacher licensure examination after their national service before they could qualify for employment in the GES. For this second year that they have to write a licensure examination, they are not paid any allowance or salary, as against Ghc2,102.65 per month (Ghc25,231.80 per annum) that they would have been earning if they were employed. This amounts to “taking force, threat or other unfair means” what is due to the teacher trainees.

Comparing the two scenarios above, it is crystal clear that the teacher trainees would have been better financially and in job progression under Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang than under Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh.
Indeed, the imposition of a one year compulsory national service followed a teacher licensure examination are unfair means used Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh to take from the teacher trainees “force, threat and unfair means” remuneration they would have been receiving but for the imposition of the licensure examination.

For the fact that Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh:

1. pays teacher trainees Ghc240.00 allowance per month instead of Ghc640.00 that used to be;
2. pays teacher trainees allowance for only eight (8) months within a year instead of twelve (12) months;

3. gives the teacher trainees a national service allowance of Ghc550.00 per month (ghc6,600.00 per annum) instead of a monthly salary of Ghc1,911.50 (ghc22,938.00 per annum);

4. imposes on the teacher trainees a teacher licensure examination in their second year after graduation thus denying them of an annual salary of Ghc25,231.80;
I strongly submit that the so called teacher trainee allowance as it operates under Minister Matthew Opoku Prempeh is an EXTORTION and not a restoration.

Cumulatively teacher trainees, under the unfair policies of the current Minister, have lost:
1. Ghc5,760.00 in reduced allowance from ghc640.00 to Ghc240.00. This amounts to Ghc17,280.00 for the three years.
2. Ghc16,338.00 being the difference between the national service allowance of Ghc6,600.00 per year and a salary of Ghc22,938.00 per year in the absence of an imposed national service.

3. Ghc25,231.80 per annum denied salary in the second year due to an imposed teacher licensure examination during which time teacher trainees receive no money.

4. Cumulatively, the Minister has extorted an amount of Ghc58,849.80 from teacher trainees through “force, threats or other unfair means”, which simply, is an extortion.
The Ghc58,849.80 would have cleared any debt under a student loan scheme for the teacher trainees.

I hope the current teacher trainees, teachers in the field and at home, who have suffered these insensitive extortions under Hon. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, as well as those coming out of the SHS hoping to enter the Colleges of Education in future, will take note of these insensitive extortions and advise themselves accordingly.

For all such teachers and teacher trainees, John Dramani Mahama, (together with his running mate Prof. Naana Jane Opoku Agyemang), has promised you that when he comes into office in January 2021, he will:
1. Retain the trainee allowance and pay it for 12 months instead of the eight months as pertains now.

2. Cancel the national service that denies you of your automatic employment with a loss of ghc16,338.00, (which is the difference between your salary of Ghc22,938.00 per annum and the national service allowance of Ghc6,600.00).
John Dramani Mahama says your one year off campus internship is enough for your national service to mother Ghana.

3. Abolish the teacher licensure examination you are compelled to write and pay for, after you have passed your professional examinations in college (which again denies you of about Ghc25,231.80 that you would have been earning in your second year after graduation).

Indeed, John and Jane (JJ), implore you to take your destiny into your hands on December 7, 2020.

It’s a grand opportunity that must not be missed.
It is a Rescue Mission you cannot afford to let go.
I wish you well, and God be with you in this endeavour.

ADDENDUM:
1. Did I hear the Minister asking Pre-tertiary Education Union leaders demanding for the closure of schools amidst increasing COVID-19 infections among students, who would work to pay teachers when they are at home?
My Response: Do teachers go to school to collect taxes from students such that, if the schools are closed, they can’t collect tax for government to run the country? And when some Ministers unfortunately, went into isolation, who worked to pay them?

2. Did I also hear them telling parents that when the schools are closed, their wards would come home to infect them with COVID-19?
My Response: When the students finally finish writing their WASSCE, will they remain in school or they will go back home? If they will, won’t they still infect their parents?
What parents are saying is that test all students, isolate those who test positive for treatment and send home those that test negative.

#I’m Still a Citizen, Not a Spectator

 

The write is a former NAGRAT President, Kwame Alorvi

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Kwame Anane

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