|The Importance of Posting in Becoming a Teacher in Ghana (CIE, 2000, 46 p.)|
This paper draws on research done as part of an ongoing study of the induction and socialisation of 23 newly trained teachers in Central Region, Ghana (see figure 1).
The experiences of these teachers offer a rich insight into some of the processes taking place as newly trained teachers move from training to their initial teaching posts. By considering their perspectives within the broader context of the Ghanaian education system, it becomes possible to see the specific experiences cited here as illustrative examples of a more general picture. Thus, the paper is a response to the call for more qualitative research in the area of teacher development in Ghana (see, for example, Harber and Dadey, 1993; and Akyeampong, 1998) to inform policy-making and education reform. It also complements the monograph on this subject by Daniel Konadu, a consultant at the Ghana Ministry of Education, published by the Institute for International Educational Planning in 1994.
Becoming a teacher in Ghana involves socialisation at the classroom, school and community levels. It emerged very strongly from the research, that the posting process and teachers' interaction with the bureaucracy had a powerful formative role in teacher socialisation. Literature in this area has noted the negative impact of inefficient deployment procedures in developing countries (Rust and Dalin, 1990; Konadu, 1994) in a general way, but this study attempts to outline in detail its impact on teachers' perceptions. Harber and Dadey (1993, p.149) noted the consequences of widespread "systematic decay" and mismanagement in education in sub-Saharan Africa in the working lives of head teachers. And, more recently, Coombe vividly summarised how teachers' lives might be affected by this problem:
...they [teachers] are at the mercy of bureaucracies which they perceive to be irrational, unpredictable and unresponsive. Teachers feel themselves disempowered by the system and often by their own principals [...] This lack of clarity in management structures is evident to teachers who are subject to inordinate delays in matters of appraisal, promotion, confirmation, deployment, payment, pensions and discipline... (Coombe, 1997:113-114)
Yet, in spite of the weight of evidence supporting this view, a recent review of issues in education and development in The New Internationalist, a journal dedicated to popularising these issues, laid most of the blame for sub-Saharan Africa's education problems at the door of the IMF and the World Bank; there was only the briefest of acknowledgements of the role played by over-centralised and often failing bureaucratic systems1.
1 The New Internationalist, August 1999
The 1970s and 1980s witnessed a long period of economic decline and mismanagement in Ghana, during which spending on education fell from 6.4% of GDP to 1.4% (World Bank, 1996). Since the government instituted structural adjustment and basic education reforms in the late 1980s, there has been a significant increase in expenditure on education, rising to 5.1% of GDP in 1997 (Akyeampong and Furlong, 2000: 8). Education now accounts for 37% of the total recurrent government budget and this increase in funds has been directed primarily at basic education in line with government targets for universal primary education, rising recently from 41% to about 65% of the budget for education (World Bank 1996:4-5; Ministry of Education 1994:3). However, in international comparisons, based on UNESCO data, Ghana's spending on education is said to be relatively low in comparison to other sub Saharan African countries in terms of GNP2 (Colclough, 1999) and it has still not returned to its level before the economic crisis.
2 Colclough bases his comparisons on GNP (1% of GNP) while the World Bank report on education reform in Ghana uses GDP (1.6% of GDP). Interestingly, there is a discrepancy of 0.6 between the World Bank (1996) and UNESCO (1995) figures, while the increase in education spending as a percentage of GNP needed for Ghana to achieve gross enrolment of 100 would be 0.3
Several commentators have suggested that lack of funds is the major problem and more could be spent, particularly on teachers' pay, which has declined in relative terms and is often cited as a major cause of low morale (See for example Pryor, 1998). There is no doubt that teachers' pay and status has declined in Ghanaian society and there have been attempts to alleviate this through incentive and housing programmes for teachers as part of the Free Compulsory Basic Education Programme (FCUBE) (Konadu, 1994). However, with significant increases in spending on education and 46.7% of all costs of FCUBE between 1996 and 2000 being met by donors (World Bank, 1996), it could be argued that lack of funds is not the major problem, but rather how that money is spent. In recent internal and external reports on education in Ghana (see for example, Ghana MOE 1995; James Nti, 1996; World Bank, 1996) it is argued that the problems in Ghanaian education are caused by a number of factors including inadequate funding for non-salary items and poor administration; low pay for teachers is only part of the picture. Furthermore, a study of the experience of becoming a teacher in Ghana brings to the surface some of the problems faced by any rapidly developing country with a growing population of school age; large differences between urban and rural areas; an education bureaucracy that does not function effectively; and a decline in the status of teachers within society.
The problems associated with posting newly trained teachers also need to be understood with reference to two interconnected problems within the education system. Firstly, the education system is failing in its main aim: to deliver the curriculum. The criterion-referenced tests, which were administered in 1996, revealed that only 5.5% of pupils at the end of the basic education cycle in state schools were achieving a mastery level in English (60%) in the test and only 1.8% were achieving mastery level in maths (55%) (Akyeampong, 1998: 9). Secondly, there is a severe shortage of trained teachers in the rural areas.
In 1994, Konadu asserted optimistically that:
One may conclude that Ghana has made a tremendous effort - especially since the reform of 1987 [the introduction of FCUBE] - to adopt rules, procedures and administrative structures aimed at rationalising and optimising the provision, deployment and utilisation of teachers. (Konadu, 1994: 25)
However, he also noted that there were many problems to be faced, including the uneven distribution between rural and urban districts and regions, which left many rural schools with one or no staff while urban schools were often overstaffed; he also noted the increasing reliance on untrained national service staff to fill the gaps. He concluded his study with the following more sanguine statement:
...the objective of optimal teacher deployment and utilisation is still far from being accomplished in Ghana. (Konadu, 1994: 50)
Despite having a teacher education system that saw 5695 newly trained teachers graduating from the 38 national training colleges in 1996/97 (GES, 1997), the problem of understaffing in the rural schools remains. The following, taken from an article in a national newspaper in 1999 illustrates the problem:
A survey conducted in four districts in the Upper West Region has identified the lack of teachers as the major contributory factor for the fallen standards in education in the region. It also revealed that out of a total of 262 newly trained teachers posted to the region this academic year, 115 refused to turn up [...] It was discovered during the investigations that 28 out of a total of 314 primary schools in the four districts have only one teacher each since the beginning of the current academic year. (The Daily Graphic 4/5/99: 13)
As these reports suggest, the problem is not one of a lack of teachers (the national pupil teacher ratio is 30 at the basic level), so much as a problem of deployment, with a significant proportion of trained teachers each year not taking up their postings to the rural areas where they are needed (see also Akyeampong, 1998: 15). The Minister of Finance in Ghana acknowledged the problem when he wrote of the need to improve "ineffective staff posting procedures" (World Bank, 1996, Annex 4: 3). To add to the problem, the huge growth in private education at the primary level offers alternative employment opportunities to untrained and trained teachers in schools situated largely in urban areas (Akyeampong, 1998: 16).
The link between these two facts: understaffed rural schools and poor results seems irrefutable and is widely acknowledged throughout the education system. There is therefore a need to understand how and why the system of posting teachers in Ghana is not working as effectively as it should, particularly from the perspective of newly trained teachers. This is of interest to all those considering alternative approaches to administering the education system in Ghana or embarking on reform in that area.