|The Importance of Posting in Becoming a Teacher in Ghana (CIE, 2000, 46 p.)|
|Chapter 5: Why do teachers report?|
It is very difficult to attribute any one factor to explain why some teachers report and some do not, but it is interesting and revealing to examine how newly trained teachers explain why they accepted their posting. Almost all the teachers, who had been posted to rural areas, spoke of their disappointment at first; most had chosen the more popular regions and had hoped for a more urban setting to teach in. The following is fairly typical:
Initially I was very very annoyed [at being posted to a rural area]. I didn't like it at all. People were giving me comfort saying I should come friends, pastor, relatives etc...my uncle is a teacher, he encouraged me. [Male teacher in a rural primary school]
This teacher acknowledges that the influence of having family members who are teachers was a factor in encouraging him to accept a difficult posting and he seems to have felt social pressure to behave responsibly, but bearing in mind the findings of the UNICEF/GES study on motivation cited earlier, this may not be the strongest influence on teachers who are genuinely reluctant to be teachers. However, the social pressure, and the moral ethic of teaching it emphasises, offers a framework for more committed teachers to consider their own work and judge other colleagues whose standards fall short through: not reporting, drunkenness and other misdemeanours. The following quotations represent views expressed to me by about half of my sample and, it should be noted, might well be expressed alongside more pragmatic views of the profession and their careers within it, an example of what Jessop and Penny called "differing professional outlooks" (1998) that teachers might use to make sense of their work and their roles:
My father is a teacher [...] the way my father brought us up I actually admired him so when I was young I dreamed of being a teacher to bring up children and train them [...] Teaching is the best. Even Jesus was a great teacher. It is the greatest thing to be a teacher and train children to be responsible in the community. Give your best, even if the government isn't rewarding them, God will reward them. [Female teacher in a rural primary school]
[...] this is the first time coming here. I've always been in the city so it's a change of environment. It's my first time to be in village. I like it, I want to experience life well and help the children too. [...] I wanted to know other areas so that when you are at the top you know how the downtrodden are living, you don't see these things in the city. [Male teacher in a rural primary school]
The job is seen, either in religious terms, almost a vocation, or in developmental terms as a contribution to society, or more commonly, as a mixture of both, with some spirit of adventure thrown in. Once the job had been framed in that way, it allowed some of them to speak forcefully about punishing teachers who had not reported to their post, or had transferred from rural areas without completing the bond period, though the latter tended to be viewed more sympathetically. Teachers seemed to be trying to negotiate the contradictions of traditional high status notions of being community-oriented teachers, and modern individualistic conceptions of self-advancement and self-reliance. There was considerable resentment among the majority of rural teachers towards their less responsible colleagues, but also a keen awareness of the failures of the system that might lead to certain kinds of behaviour. There was also fairly strong support for the reintroduction of the bond and its enforcement; some took a hard line view, given that they themselves had accepted difficult postings, while others were more equivocal, noting the poor conditions and continued lack of incentives in many areas.
Almost all the teachers expressed some understanding for the reasons that teachers did not accept difficult postings. It was also noted that the district offices sometimes didn't help teachers in getting to the more remote schools and seemed to know very little about them, sometimes actively discouraging teachers from going:
[If someone doesn't report] ...you need to know about the situation. Maybe they have nowhere to stay, no money, the reason they are moving must be established. [Male teacher in a rural JSS]
[Do you have problems of teachers not reporting here?] Especially lady teachers. One was posted here as one of four, but at the district office they laughed at her for thinking of going to the remote area so she transferred. [Head teacher of a rural primary school]
There was general support among the teachers I interviewed for the development of stronger ties between schools and communities; in the past many schools had been seen by isolated rural communities as "alien"8 institutions, as one district director put it. Although it is too early to fully evaluate its impact, the recently introduced policy of School Performance Appraisal Meetings (SPAMs) seems to have rebuilt a sense of collective responsibility among teachers and communities and may well be the start of a culture of co-operation and accountability that should benefit teachers and pupils. All the teachers interviewed who had experienced SPAMs recognised their value and some had seen positive outcomes in terms of provision of food and subsidised housing as a direct consequence.
8 This point was put to me by one of the District Directors in Central Region
Alongside the moral/ethical pressure that teachers may be under to accept a posting and behave responsibly when they take it up, there may be more pragmatic reasons for accepting a posting. One of the most important is the opportunity for study leave, which was available until recently after two years of teaching. This is a defining aspect of the professional culture of teaching currently existing in Ghana and is considered in the section below. Another pragmatic way of dealing with a difficult posting was to see it as a challenge and an opportunity for personal independence, highlighting the increasing prevalence of modern individualistic motivations among newly trained teachers. This view was shared by male and female teachers and was quite common:
Central Region was my first choice...to be on my own away from my parents and see whether I can. [Female teacher in a rural primary school]
I just liked it [Central Region] and wanted a change of environment and wanted to be on my own and away from the family (my Dad and Step Mum are in Accra and Mum and Step Dad are in Kumasi). [Male teacher in an urban JSS school]
Another pragmatic way that newly posted teachers come to terms with their posting in rural areas is by farming, in contradiction of the GES professional code; a fact also noted by Pryor in his 1998 study. The majority of the teachers in rural areas had begun to farm and the following is typical of this perspective:
[Is farming an incentive to stay in the village?] Yes and it can also help you, providing food etc. I spend free time on the farm, yes. When I go away, I have somebody to look after the farm...during vacation. [Male teacher in a rural primary school]
Another source of encouragement for teachers to accept difficult postings is the GES policy, whenever possible, to post two or more teachers, often from the same college, to the more remote schools and it seems to be an important way of encouraging teachers to accept their posting. All teachers who had been posted to rural areas with other teachers recognised the value of it, as the two examples below demonstrate:
A. is a mate even from school. I was happy to be posted here with her. I was relieved. [How would you have coped on your own?] I would have tried...with the help of the head it was OK [...] There is one other newly trained teacher from O. training college. I'm glad to have started with other women. [Female teacher in a rural primary school]
I was happy to be posted with a friend to J. He was re-posted, but he's still nearby [...] Being posted together made it easier...knowing you were being posted with a colleague motivated you to come. [Male teacher in a rural JSS school]
It seems that it is much easier to come to terms with a situation if you know you are not alone in facing it. However, in general there is widespread disillusion at promised, but limited and thinly spread nature of incentives for rural teachers (such as bicycles) and many seek early transfers as a consequence.
As was noted at the start of this section, having family members in teaching may well encourage pragmatism about the job and a clearer view of its attractions, particularly for people from poorer backgrounds:
I originally wanted to be a journalist but when I finished secondary school in form three, my father died so there were no available funds so my mother advised me to take up teaching...she teaches primary. [Male teacher in a rural primary school]
For this teacher, and many others I interviewed, it emerged that teaching, with the allowance, food and lodging during training and opportunities for paid study leave at university after two years of teaching offered an alternative route into higher education and a limited degree of financial independence. This was attractive to people from all social backgrounds; perhaps teaching was not particularly attractive as a career, but there were many incentives in the first years of training and teaching. The high priority given to study leave in newly trained teachers' views of their motivation to stay in the profession was universal among the teachers I interviewed and this provides an illuminating example of a system not employing its incentives in an efficient or long term way. In general study leave is not seen as an opportunity to develop one's skills as a primary teacher, but a way to leave the sector altogether.