On Chass-Moe Relations

Date published: January 6, 2014
 
By I. K. Gyasi
 
TO COMMEMORATE the 25 th Anniversary of Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS), the late T.A Osae, one of Ghana’s greatest headmasters wrote a brief but comprehensive history of CHASS.

He wrote among other things, as follows: ‘The early 1970′s saw Dr. K.A Busia and his Progressive Party in power. When Mr. William Ofori-Atta was the Minister responsible for Edcuation, CHASS enjoyed excellent relations with the Ministry of Education and the Government as a whole. But some of the other Ministers, who followed Pa Willie, as he was popularly called, dealt with lapses among Heads of higher institutions through a system of deliberate, public denunciation of heads, amounting to ridicule.

‘Heads were rebuked mercilessly, even on the solemn occasion of Speech Day, to the hearing of their students and guests. This was a great worry to CHASS, especially as the Conference was making genuine efforts to clean its own house.

‘This was the state of affairs when Mr. R.R Amponsah arrived at the annual conference in 1971 to address CHASS at the closing dinner party. Suspecting that the Minister was going to hand down tirades against Heads, the President of CHASS pre-empted the prospect by declaring in his welcoming address to the Minister the following statement:

‘We Headmasters are aware of the weaknesses in our ranks and are dong our best to redress the situation. We welcome criticisms; in a way we like it. But when Heads  are openly ridiculed  before their own students  and  in front  of invited  guests, including parents, then, Sir, Heads  who are  your officers on the front line  are dangerously weakened.’

‘The effect was electric. The Minister pocketed his prepared speech but, characteristic of Mr. R.R Amponsah, he spoke exceptionally well for ten minutes. He received rounds of applause. The spate of tirades against Heads from official quarters henceforth abated.’

Incidentally, the President of CHASS at the time was Mr. Osae, who headed the organization from 1968 to 1977, almost a total of ten years.

If open criticism of Heads abated, the criticism did not completely cease. From time to time, relations between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Ghana Education Service (GES) on one hand and CHASS on the other became frosty, even confrontational.

Boarding fees, the payment of subsidies, charges imposed by heads with or without an agreement with Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), and suspected financial and other cases of malfeasance have always provided the grounds for the freeze.

At the beginning  of the 2013/2014 Academic Year, relations deteriorated  between the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education  Service on one hand  and  some individual  headmasters and headmistresses, a deterioration that boded  ill for the educational enterprise  as a whole.

The problem lay with admissions to SSS1 and the fees fixed by the MOE and the GES.

It would be recalled that, until about five years ago, initial admissions to SSS 1 were conducted   by heads in conjunction with officials of the Ghana Education Service at the regional level.

There were allegations that some heads took bribes in cash or in kind or both before offering admissions to candidates. It was also said that parents had to move from one place to another looking for admission for their children. And it was said that, through what became known as ‘protocol admissions’, the children and wards of the privileged in society were gaining admission at the expense of more qualified children of the under-privileged.

Unfortunately, the same charges are also being levelled against those whose duty is to operate the computerized system of admission. That is not the headache of heads.

The problem is that schools are being swamped with candidates even where it is clear that lack of amenities and facilities is making it impossible for all those numbers to be admitted. It seems that all that the authorities at the MOE and the GES are interested in is to be able to tell the whole world that they have succeeded in placing all candidates in the schools.

An equally prickly, hard-to-handle problem is the kind and amount of fees and other charges to be paid by parents and guardians. The MOE and the GES fixed fees and determined the items were to be supplied.

As has become known, many heads, if not all of them, also had lists of items to be paid for, or moneys to be paid for some projects being undertaken or to be undertaken by the schools.

This practice has been the norm. Unfortunately, last year, the MOE and the GES decided to show heads ‘where power lies’ by openly threatening fire and brimstone on recalcitrant heads. In fact, one  head was  reported to have been  dismissed while others  were  told  to credit ‘unapproved’ fees  to the  accounts of  students.

As a result of the public hullabaloo, heads became easy targets to be carved up and dissected by parents, the media and the general public as a whole. It seemed as if the old days Mr. Osae wrote about had come back. It is important for sanity to prevail.

As a retired headmaster, I am very much concerned at the needless confrontation and sabre rattling. I need not remind my fellow heads that they are employees of the State through the Government of the day and its agencies, namely, the MOE and the GES.

CHASS also works within the professional body of teachers, namely the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT). These days, there are also those who belong to the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT).

The point being made here is that neither individual members of CHASS, nor the organization itself, can operate independently of the MOE and the GES. If it is true, then it is most abominable and incomprehensible for schools to sell brooms, hoes and cutlasses to students. Are those items customized or what?

On the other hand, the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service should play fair. How can the two bodies swap the schools with students when the constant cry is for facilities to improve teaching and learning?

Did the MOE and the GES hear that the ominous cry from the ‘North’ about boarding subsidies still to be paid? The MOE and the GES  are constantly behind schedule  in the matter  of the payment  of subsidies and  yet  all they   do is  either  threaten  heads  or tell  them  to make do  with what  they have.

Today, a number of our Senior High Schools are struggling to find their feet: abandoned classroom, assembly hall, dining hall projects.

This has compelled some heads to take the initiative, either in their own or through the PTA’s, to provide needed infrastructure for their schools. After all, they are the ones who will be asked eventually to account for their stewardship.

There is absolutely no reason why peace should not prevail between individual Heads and CHASS on one hand, and the MOE and GES on the other.  Field commanders and Headquarters should not disagree, otherwise the educational battle will be lost.

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