Teacher training was first introduced into Ghana (Gold Coast) by the Basel Missionaries (Presbyterians) led by Rev. Andreas Riis when they established the Teacher Training and Catechist School in Akropong Akwapim in 1848. Their intention was to train local folks in the teaching profession to help them in their evangelical and educational mission in the Gold Coast.
As at April 2016, there were 38 public colleges and 3 private colleges of education in Ghana (the government promised in 2012 to build 10 extra colleges and we are still waiting for their foundation to be laid). Students undergo a three-year in-in-out program. Currently, there are about 48,000 students in the 38 public colleges of education in Ghana.
This article is meant to bring to the fore the realities that pertain in the colleges of education in Ghana. It is not meant for any political expediency.
TERTIARISATION OF THE COLLEGES OF EDUCATION
The colleges were formerly known as teacher training colleges until 2007 when the name went through some metamorphosis into colleges of education. The bill converting these institutions into diploma awarding tertiary institutions was passed in 2012.
The 2012/2013 admittants into the colleges of education were happy that they were going to tertiary institutions. That was why most of us did not bother much about the CRUEL WITHDRAWAL of the teacher trainees allowances by the government. As at now, the only things tertiarised about the colleges of education are the withdrawal of allowance and the change in name. Some of us were anticipating to experience tertiary life but what we went through was no near our expectation.
The following illustrate the conditions in the colleges of education in Ghana:
To begin with, a college student must obtain a signed exeat before leaving campus. Students are not allowed to even go out to town without exeat. Cases why students have time to do part time works to meet the huge financial obligations on campus are totally absent in the colleges of education. For this reason all finances come from parents and guardians. Students have no free time on campus. Classes usually begin at 7:00am through to 3:00pm. After classes too students are engaged to work on campus. Weekends are also busy days for the teacher trainee. Students hardly get time to even enjoy siesta.
Furthermore, it is only in the colleges of education that you can find tertiary students wearing uniforms. The dress code of the colleges is very strict. You wear uniforms to classes, prep in the evenings and generally on campus. You cannot even be in mufti when going home nor when coming back from weekends. Mufti is allowed ONLY when you are going to work.
Another feature of these tertiarised institutions is that students must attend prep by force. This can best be described as LEARNING UNDER DURESS. After the day’s arduous work, most students go to prep to rest and sleep instead of learning. No wonder that there have been mass failure among students especially the level 100 students who are usually known as the labour force.
Again, it is a policy in the colleges that every student must go to dinning. Students are fed from their fees and the foods are mostly of low quality and quantity. The concept of school father and school mother is highly esteemed in the colleges where juniors always serve their seniors. No student is allowed to cook on campus. Even those from the town must stay on campus. So the college system is totally boarding with its accompanying restrictions.
Mention can also be made of the fact that the students in these tertiarised institutions are used as labour force to do all sorts of works on campus. The day usually begins at 5:00am where students are engaged in various tasks such as sweeping, scrubbing, watering and weeding before bathing to class. By The time you reach class you are already exhausted. The second segment of the laborious activities is slated for 3:30pm. The level 100 students are the best labour force of the college. How can students under these conditions study well and excel in the end of semester examinations organised and supervised by the University of Cape Coast.
To add to the above features, the following also define colleges of education in Ghana:
1 Students are to bring cutlasses, hoes and trunks as prospectus to school.
2 The time to wake up and sleep are all determined and restricted.
3 Students learn in classrooms not in lecture halls as practiced in tertiary institutions.
4 Students are crowded in dormitories and cubicles.
5 Lady students are to plait a particular hair style contrary to which attracts serious punishments.
When were in level 100, our seniors were fond of a particular slogan; “second year dey jom but out program dey jom pass.” This simply means that the most interesting and enjoyable level of our education is being in level 300 (out program). According to the system run by the colleges of education, when you reach level 300, then you are referred to as a mentee. Their slogan was true because they had allowance which will help them through the one year teaching practice program at villages hitherto unknown to them. But subsequent mentees would have a different slogan.
While they had some form of financial relieve during their teaching practice, others have to go there with empty hands. No wonder a pupil was able to ask her teacher (mentee) one day during break; “sir, our former sir usually sends us to buy him food during break but since you came you never sent any of us to buy you food?” I wonder how this colleague of mine would answer that curious pupil.
In this state the mentee is required to pay school fees; pay for rent and utilities (water and electricity); transport themselves from their stations to campus at huge costs for classes, special meetings, submission of project work, etc; buy books; buy and prepare teaching and learning materials; before he/she considers his/her personal upkeep.
We were asked not to consider this as national service but I bet to differ. The mentee is rendering service to mother Ghana and the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT). Mostly the mentees work more than the mentors (regular teachers). The mentees are posted to schools as in national service, just that we work for marks. In actual fact, the mentees are helping the members of GNAT in doing their jobs for which they are remunerated but they seem to ignore the plight of the teacher trainee. I wonder if some of us will join them.
Even if the out program should be likened to internship as practiced in other tertiary institutions, why should ours be one whole year? Nonetheless, we must be motivated just as those doing their internships are given some coins. (What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander). We were taught to motivate our students to learn and I wonder why we cannot be motivated to teach. The concept of motivation is totally absent when it comes to mentees but he/she has to motivate others. What an irony?
The issue of uniform still lingers onto the out program. Mentees are compelled to dress in our school uniforms when going to school to teach. You cannot wear anything unprescribed to school, not even campus. If you are caught, then you are assured of doing some fat punishment on campus in the presence of your juniors.
We have to teach our innocent students with all these inconveniences.
The issue of teacher trainee in Ghana is generally misconstrued. Policy makers seem to place the colleges of education on the same pedestal as the fully fledged tertiary institutions. But this comparism can ONLY reflect on paper and people’s minds. The teacher trainees themselves are the best people to tell if they are indeed being treated like tertiary students.
The Ewes propounded a very interesting adage thus; “Ne edor nya dze anyi la Abutiawoe gblorne.” This simply means that when the issue of fishing crops up, it is mostly those who are expertise in fishing that talk to the matter. So it is those who have being through the ordeals of the colleges of education that can speak better about teacher trainees. Politicians like Mr. Asiedu Nketia (General Mosquito) have no gut to insult us because if they do, then they are insulting the future of this dear country of ours.
Recently, the president on his accounting to the people tour indicated that they have brought the colleges of education at par with the traditional tertiary institutions such as the universities and polytechnics (technical universities), hence their unpopular decision to “swap” the teacher trainees allowance with the students loan. If you want to upgrade an institution, there must be an upgrade in the infrastructure and the administrative systems of such institutions first as being done in the upgrading of the polytechnics into technical universities. There must be a complete reorientation as to how the colleges of education should be ran in this country to reflect true tertiarised institutions. These restricted tertiary institutions (according to my principal) must be rethought of to reflect the status of a college of education.
SAMUEL K DASSI
A PAST STUDENT OF AKATSI COLLEGE OF EDUCATION