Introduce Refined Pupil-Teacher System To Deal With Teacher Shortage
The late President John Evans Atta Mills once lamented when his party was in opposition, that he was derided for suggesting that graduates who were unemployed could enter the teaching field and progress from there to other areas through sandwich programmes.
However, looking at the situation today, the President’s suggestion holds the key to the nation’s graduate unemployment problem.
It is unfortunate that sometimes simple and harmless suggestions which would have led to rectifying a difficult condition should receive little attention or even become a subject for condemnation by the so-called knowledgeable people.
For instance, the Gas have it that “If the tear is not big you don’t stitch it beyond its limit” while the Ewes also have it that “when the farm is not far from home, we don’t take along a big gourd (water container) to the farm.”
Wise sayings such as these sometimes escape us as a nation when it comes to solving simple problems like the shortage of trained teachers in our basic schools. What we ought to do is to assess the situation and adopt an appropriate solution that is workable and which will not destabilise the system.
As is normally the case, very good suggestions come from head teachers, principals and especially guest speakers at speech and prize-giving days and at the congregations of colleges and universities. It is regrettable that such suggestions are left to float in the air and as the function ends nobody cares as to how those suggestions could be harnessed into policy for the benefit of all.
Now that we have Parliament and its sub-committee on education, directors and officials of the Ministry of Education, it should be possible that suggestions at these events, even from students, should find an outlet to the state officials.
Recently, St Francis Training College of Education held its fifth congregation at Hohoe, during which the Principal of the College, Mr Denis Agbenuvor suggested that those who failed to gain admission into training colleges should be employed as pupil teachers and given the opportunity to enrol on distance education programmes or be engaged on sandwich courses.
Mr Agbenuvor said: “The large number of applicants who want to be trained as professional teachers and the limited quota given to colleges for admission is very disproportional. The College is given the quota of 210, i.e. 130 male and 80 female for 2012 admissions. Meanwhile there are 773 males and 288 female qualified applicants.
“If such a number of applicants are ready to be trained as professional teacher why can’t we solve the nation’s teacher shortage problem in the long run by increasing the quotas for the Colleges? In the short run some of the applicants can be taken on as it used to be in the good old days where some of the applicants are selected and given pupil teacher appointments and posted to fill the vacancies in our basic schools.
“These pupil teachers who are already qualified to enter the Colleges for the Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) course can pursue the course by sandwich during the vacation periods. In that case they are teaching and pursuing the DBE course simultaneously. By this we will be doubling our output of professional teachers annually.”
Similarly, in an article published in “The Weekend Globe” of Friday, July 27, 2012, written by JoJoBediako under the topic “Teacher Shortage Hits Basic Schools”, one can see the wisdom in what Mr Agbenuvor was calling for.
In Mr Bediako’s article, he quoted one Mr Vincent SenamKuagbenu who observed that the number of pupils in basic schools continued to expand while the output of the 38 teacher training colleges in the country remained the same for more than a decade.
That article quoted the Upper East Regional Director of Education; Mr Paul A. Apanga as saying that teacher training colleges in the region could only admit about 270 out of over 1,700 applicants who qualified for the 2011/2012 academic year.
One would have wished that this situation would have caught the attention of Parliament by now, as well as the attention of the Ministry of Education, because the huge investment the State is making in education must benefit all and these are some of the possible ways of solving the unemployment situation.
It appears that the Ministry of Education is so helpless that it cannot even do anything to assist those rural communities where there is only one teacher handling a whole primary school, or where some teachers have been taken on to teach un-examinable subjects which they are not qualified to teach in junior high schools due to shortage of teachers.
Professor Ernest Awanta, the Dean of Students of the University of Education, Winneba, who was the guest speaker on the June 23 congregation of the college in a wide exposition on the educational facilities in the country reminded the nation that, “Human resource development, especially in the educational sector is key to our national development, hence, there is the need to channel our resources into the right area in order to improve the socio-economic status of our people, especially the younger ones.”
If government training colleges are unable to admit all qualified students what will those that did not get admission do? Certainly, the common sense approach can only be what the late President Mills and many other educationists prescribed a long time ago – Work out a system that will absorb the rest into the educational system as pupil teachers, and then organise sandwich courses for them to upgrade themselves to the status of trained teachers.