A Teacher

“I am a teacher … several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades and so are all the so called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget that these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future,” Ivan Welton Fitz.

Education, or better put, western education, or rather formal education engulfed the Gold Coast when it was colonized, spreading from the coast, where the sea laps the shore, through the mountains of Akuapem and Kwahu, to the east and west, to the lush forests of Ashanti, then to the placid North.

The traditional educational system gave special training to the people within the communities, and it was usually from father or uncle to son or nephew or from mother or aunt to daughter or niece. The children were taught the rudiments of farming, hunting, fishing or herding, child-care or   specialized skills including blacksmithing and pottery-making, depending on the particular community. Formal education which started with the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic) began by the colonial government took place in the ‘Castle Schools’ or ‘Colonial Schools’, especially in Cape Coast where Philip Quaicoo, after training in England, returned to the Gold Coast to become the headmaster of the Colonial School in 1766.  (The 3 R’s constitute the foundations of a basic skills-oriented education programme in schools. The phrase originally came from Saint Augustine’s “The Confessions of Saint Augustine” in AD 401, and buttressed in a toast given by Sir William Curtis around 1825, and the phrase is used because each word has a strong R phoneme –reading, ‘riting’, ‘rithmetic’).

Two Asante princes, Owusu-Ansa, son of the Asantehene Osei Bonsu and Owusu Nkwantanbisa, son of another Asantehene Osei Yaw, were sent to England after a stint at the ‘Castle School’. They returned with Robert Brookling to Kumasi in November, 1841 as missionaries. This gave the signal that Asanteman had embraced the pursuit of formal education from princes to peasants and it did not matter the fact that the students were attending schools under trees or in private premises of benefactors.

Teachers play a very important role in the education of children, and they, who act ‘in loco parentis’ (in place of parents), need to be encouraged to do their work diligently and assiduously. Their role in national development can hardly be over emphasized.

On 7th May, 2012, Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu held the Teachers’ Award ceremony at which 100 teachers, selected from rural settings in the 10 regions of the country, were rewarded (NOT; awarded). These teachers were acclaimed for excelling in their various fields last year (2011) , and they came from rural  and deprived areas, namely: Twifu Kyebi and Nuanua No2 in the Central Region; Terhey and Tokpo in the Greater Accra Region; Temebaabi and Fahiakobo in the Ashanti Region; Kokosua and Asunti in the Brong Ahafo Region; Wudese and Koru in the Volta Region; Dalun and Tong in the Northern Region; Kpalinye and Naame in the Upper West Region; Abrenya and Amennam in the Eastern Region; Abotarye and Swanzy in the Western Region; Narkoli and Zerogo in the Upper East Region. Also duly rewarded were 10 Regional Directors of Education.

Opinions may differ as to the awards extending far beyond Asanteman. This is explained in the statement by the Otumfuo who recalls that Ghanaians are “one people”, and that there would not be any “discrimination” in any future awards initiated by Manhyia. That explains why, in spite of the differences in size, all the ten regions of the country were given ten slots each.

The selection of the award winners was done by special committees constituted by various regional directorates of education. According to Executive Director of the Otumfuo Charity Foundation, Dr Agyarko Poku, the process of selecting the award winners had been very transparent, with the awards going to those who really deserved them.

Otumfuo noted that in comparison with the enormity of the work the award winners and others like them were doing in the “most difficult parts” of the country, the awards were “nothing”; however, he believed the gesture would stimulate, spur, animate, motivate, and encourage them to work even harder in the future.

Imagine yourself as a village teacher winning the award of a television set, a clock, wellington boots, solar lights, machetes, a mosquito net and an envelope containing an undisclosed amount of cash, how would you react? In addition, see how the cameras were focused on them as they received their awards. These objects are very vital in the life of a rural teacher or, better still, a teacher in the rural area.

However, Otumfuo sees the award as a gesture, a symbolism to entice the teachers who were advised not to see their postings to deprived areas as punishment. Symbolism is the art or the practice of using symbols, especially investing things with a symbolic meaning by expressing the invisible or intangible by means of visible or sensuous representations. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning and it always points beyond itself- it goes beyond the deeper meaning it wishes to convey.

When the names of the villages were dropped, a good number of people heard them for the first time: how many people had heard of Temebaabi and Fahiakobo? You know the selection of names for villages, so you can guess how or why someone would select and give his or her village the name ‘Temebaabi’ (I am ‘staying my somewhere’ or rather, I prefer being a recluse) or ‘Fahiakobo’ (Adjust to poverty).

When the Otumfuo Education Fund was started in Kumasi about ten years ago, a number of chiefdoms picked a cue and also started similar funds in their localities. One would pray that other localities would embrace this gesture (the award) and encourage similar types of workers through similar incentives. The inhabitants need not be taxed or tasked to contribute to the funds. There are many benefactors (philanthropies-local and foreign) who may be willing to invest in cash and  in kind in such projects and the avenues must be created to embrace such personalities – a lot of whom may themselves have sprung from rural settings to blossom, flourish and fructify- in answer to their ‘great expectations’.

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By Africanus Owusu-Ansah

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