SPEECH BY NAGRAT PRESIDENT MR. CHRISTIAN ADDAI-POKU AT THE HAND-OVER AND SWEARING-IN CEREMONY OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE AND NAGRAT FUND BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEMBERS
First, let me take this opportunity to wish each and everyone of you a happy new year. Indeed there are many who would have wished but could not live to be part of today. Our hearts go out to all dear ones we have lost in 2013 and early 2014.
Mr. Chairman, as the 6th elected National Officers of NAGRAT in its 16years of existence as a fully fledged Union and of which I have been handed the mandate to lead and serve for a second four-year-term, my colleagues and I deem it a privilege to be handed this second chance. We are therefore grateful to our membership for the confidence reposed in us and the second opportunity granted us to help move our union to the next level. Returning most of us into office the second time also tells us how appreciative you all have been of the numerous successes our union has seen over the past four years. Indeed, we have decided not to talk about the successes of our past four years in today’s programme but rather focus on our priorities for the next four years.
As teachers, our core mandate is to educate society through the school system. We are proud of the work we do, making difference in the lives of others and for doing it in an environment that others are quick to run away from. We cover distances sometimes on foot, we cross big rivers but without life jackets, we are assaulted and brutalised but hardly get justice, we are sent out to villages and hamlets where civilization is ages behind – no telephone network, no electricity, no potable water, no good food, no proper accommodation, no proper school buildings, no security, no health facilities and no newspapers. We work in a service where in-service training, refresher courses and over all professional development of teachers are consistently failing to meet the top priorities of authorities.
As a union, we intend to channel a lot of resources into professional development of our teaming membership. Ladies and Gentlemen, NAGRAT fully recognise that it takes high level of professionalism to succeed as a teacher in the midst of these many difficulties, some of which I mentioned above. The yearly training programme we organised for teachers preparing for interviews will be improved upon and expanded. We will produce a quarterly periodical that will focus on professional development and modern methods of teaching. These will help members acquaint themselves with new ways of education delivery.
Mr. Chairman, as one of our core mandates as a union, we will continue to engage the appropriate authorities for improved conditions of service. Though it is claimed that the Single Spine Pay Policy has increased our remuneration and which we do acknowledge, it is important to note that in comparative terms, teachers are among the least beneficiaries of the new pay regime. We still look up to the day issues of allowances will be tackled and resolved so as to instill the needed equity we all crave for. All outstanding issues regarding, collective agreement, non payment of certain allowances, staff rationalization, promotion issues among others will be taken up seriously with management and hopefully we will find amicable settlements.
Mr. Chairman, as people who deliver education, NAGRAT has a responsibility to influence educational policy formulation and successful implementation. There have been many occasions where teachers have been left in the dark at the formulation stages of educational policies but we are charged to make the best out of them after they have been formulated, whether good or bad. In 2014 and beyond, NAGRAT will aggressively help plan for changes in education delivery, we will advocate the framework for a new direction for public school education, starting with renewed partnership between the authorities and teachers. When there is proper social partnership between education authorities and the union, quality education will be the eventual winner. This social partnership will thrive on timeous consultations, proper flow of information, mutual trust and willingness to settle issues expeditiously.
Mr. Chairman, another priority for us in the next four years will be to secure the retirement of our members. We will work to ensure that the new Pension Scheme for workers, especially the second tier is operationalised and properly set up to benefit workers. After long and dedicated service to this nation workers deserve to retire on something respectable. Under the NAGRAT Fund Scheme we will work to ensure that funds are properly invested and members consistently updated on the growth of their funds. We will work to ensure that the process already set in motion for pension backed mortgages for our members is completed successfully to relieve teachers of accommodation problems.
Mr. Chairman, as a young Union, NAGRAT continue to improve administratively and in terms of infrastructure so as to keep pace with modern trends of Unionism. We started some administrative reforms in our first term in office and we intend to follow them through in our second term. We intend to make the Union very close and more responsive to the needs of our members. Leadership will be handy to attend to the needs of members at all levels.
In terms of infrastructure, an ultramodern national secretariat is envisaged to be completed within the next four years. All the drawings are almost complete and very soon we will cut the sod for construction to begin. We will also work to ensure that the regions that have not yet gotten permanent secretariat will have them. Most of the zones that do not have offices at all will also be assisted to have. This will help deliver quality services to our members at the grassroots level.
Ladies and Gentlemen, NAGRAT acknowledge the existence of other independent Unions within the Ghana Education Service. As these Unions share common interests with us, it is our vision to strengthen collaboration with them so that with unity in diversity we can work together to move education forward. We will also work hand in hand with all Unions within the organised labour to ensure that we always have a fair deal from authorities for workers and in return Authorities will also get the highest level of output from workers. NAGRAT will also continue to strengthen our co-operation with other Unions abroad such as Education International, Canadian Association of University Teachers and Korean Federation of Teachers. With such international connections our union will be able to bring new ways of doing things into our system.
Our vision is to build confidence in the teaching profession. We will work to achieve a profession whose membership will be respected by society by virtue of their professional capabilities, their work ethics and their ability to inspire success in the next generation. We will do our best to collaborate and dialogue with educational authorities in dealing with matters of education.
Issues of full utilization of instructional hours, pruning down of class sizes, advocacy for more funds for procurement of teaching and learning materials, low cost of education to students, advocacy for curriculum reforms and teacher motivation are also going to be given due attention. By this, our research department will be empowered to be able to provide useful information that will help improve education in the country.
Mr. Chairman, as the world edges towards the end of the Millennium Development Goals next year, the international community has started planning for post 2015 development goals. Much as we do agree that Education For All (EFA) dominated the world’s attention in the 15 years and took a chunk of resources we still believe EFA deserves even more in the post 2015 agenda. As a teacher union, and being part of Education International we believe the post 2015 agenda should not focus on just access to Education but access to quality education. Indeed EFA has helped create access to over 96% of Ghanaian children but the same cannot be said of the quality of education these children are accessing. NAGRAT will continue to advocate and lobby the government to support “The Move for Quality Education” in post 2015 which was launched by Education International on the 5th of October 2013 at the UNESCO Head Quarters in Paris. As we have some Educational Authorities present here today, we hope this will be incorporated into our post 2015 National Education Agenda.
Mr. Chairman, the task ahead of us is enormous but that is the more reason we are called to serve. Is it not true, Ladies and Gentlemen, that many of the things that we automatically rule out as impossible because they look scary at a glance, turn out to be just difficult possibilities? Indeed there are challenges ahead but with the support of everyone here the sky shall be the limit.