SPEECH MR. CHRISTIAN ADDAI-POKU, NAGRAT PRESIDENT, AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE NAGRAT LYCEUM .
I am delighted to welcome you to the inauguration of the new office complex for National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) Ghana.
Indeed the dream of creating a new and befitting home for our noble Association is a dream of old. From the very start of our noble Association in the year 1996, we have always demonstrated our predatory nature towards achieving greater heights and focusing on raising the image of the teaching profession.
Today, as I stand here, I pay glowing tribute to our founder fathers whose undaunted spirit kept us afloat even in the face of cornucopia of attempts to kill this idea of graduate teachers coming together to protect their common interest. I specifically salute Mr. Lucas Alagbo who founded and led the Association in its first nine years. Indeed there had never been more difficult and tortuous times in the history of our union than those early days. But that was the time NAGRAT made its greatest history. Today if a teacher graduates and is placed at the grade of Principal Superintendent he or she should say a little prayer not only for NAGRAT but for Mr. Lucas Alagbo and his team; because before those days there was no distinction between graduate teachers and non-graduate teachers in terms of rank and salary.
I take this opportunity to salute other compatriots who worked with our founder father like Mr. Koame Edjah, Mr. Joseph Benjamin Asmah, Mr. Nicholas Ahator, Mr. Patrick Amengor and Madam JulianaAsamoah.
I also pay tribute to other officers who have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that the fire that was lighted by Mr. Lucas Alagbo keeps on burning perpetually. Great names like Mr. Emmanuel Kwami Alorvi, Mr. Kofi Adom Sakyi, Mr. Munkayila King Zakari,NaaMoses Yuoni, Mr. ObrumankumahKwame Dotsey, Mrs.BeatriceArhin and Ms. MarjorieAffenyi can never be forgotten in the history of NAGRAT.
We are always proud of the good work of these great men and women whose sweat we continue to enjoy. It was never easy forming this Association or being part of its army of enthusiastic members working tirelessly to improve the wellbeing of teachers.
Today, if you are teaching and riding in your own cars, please be reminded that it all started with NAGRAT and the then Kuffour’s NPP government. Through extensive dialogue between the government at the time and NAGRAT, tax exemption was granted teachers who imported cars for personal use. Through this policy, over 4,000 NAGRAT members benefited from the NAGRAT Auto Scheme. It is very sad that the immediate past government took away this teacher friendly policy. We take this opportunity to ask Nana Akuffo-Addo’s government to bring back this great policy as it helped in retaining a lot of teachers.
Mr. Chairman, we are proud to say that the formation of NAGRAT has helped lift the image of teachers in this country. We can cast a glance at the teaching profession and the image of a typical teacher in the early nineties and beyond and compare it to the present day.One can easily appreciate why the formation of NAGRAT was unavoidable at the time. We remain leaders in the fight for the protection of teachers and their rights. It is however worthy of note that those days when officialdom and even some of our own colleague Unions persistently marginalized us and refused to recognise and accept our existence are over. Today there is due recognition of our Union in all circles. Our employer accords us our deserved respect and engages us as major stakeholders in education delivery. We are full participants in all activities of organised labour without any trace of disrespect. There is now a strong collaboration between NAGRAT and other Teacher Unions within GES (GNAT, TEWU and CCT) in the fight for the right of teachers. Internationally, our affiliation to Education International and strong co-operation activities with Canadian Association of University Teachers have made us more mature as labour union. We are now able to apply modern trade union strategies in achieving our goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as we can all attest; those days of constant marginalisation and persistent refusal to recognise us made our union adopt radical measures to achieve our goals. In those days NAGRAT was not considered as major stakeholder. Even some GES and government officials refused to sit at table with us to negotiate. We therefore had to force them through our own means to sit with us. It is therefore a great feat that today NAGRAT is a household name. Much as I do agree that we have not shifted markedly from our radical philosophy, at least there has been some level of moderation in our application of union radicalism.
The inauguration of this mighty edifice tells it all. We have survived the turbulence. We continue to grow in members and in strength. Our combined voices humble any rival force that stand between us and our goal of making the teaching profession greater on daily basis.
Mr. Chairman, the edifice before us and which we are inaugurating today shall be called NAGRAT LYCEUM. The name Lyceum is a Latin word of Greek rendering. Literature tells us that it was a significant edifice of antiquity named after the Greek god Appollo Lyceum. The Lyceum was connected with philosophical teachings and discourses. However, it also served other relevant purposes like being used for military exercises, meetings of Athenian assembly among others.
We have adopted this for our building to signify its relevance to knowledge and the services that will emanate from this building to reach those who provide knowledge. It will serve as a meeting point for those who believe in academic excellence.
From this building, educational issues and policies will be discussed and scrutinized by academics and philosophers.
From this building we will dialogue to get the best for the teaching profession.
From this building we will strategize with military precision in the fight to protect the interest of our profession at all times.
From this building NAGRAT will provide welfare services to enhance the wellbeing of teachers. Here, the NAGRAT Fund will grow in leaps and bounds, the Auto Scheme will be resurrected and our housing scheme will eventually materialize.
From this building NAGRAT will be more visible and we will show stronger presence in the committee of organized labour both nationally and internationally.
From this building we send a strong message to those who thought it was impossible. Today we tell them that “Here we are”. We did not collapse; we continue to grow and the growth is perpetual.
This great feat we are celebrating today does not only reemphasise NAGRAT position as a major stakeholder but also a major player in the education sector.
Mr. Chairman, we take this chance to reassure government of our readiness to collaborate with them to deliver quality education to all manner of people who qualify to access it. We commend the government for the bold initiative to implement free secondary education come September 2017. We however caution that the success or failure of this flagship policy depends largely on proper and timeous funding, training and retraining of teachers, proper planning and constant consultations with relevant stakeholders.
Mr. Chairman, His Excellency the President of the Republic has consistent emphasised the importance of teacher motivation in this whole scheme of free SHS policy. According to him, and which I completely agree, the teacher is and should remain at the centre of his educational policies. Indeed we have been very patient thus far and we continue to wait patiently for the day our president will unveil his plans for teacher motivation. We are ready to dialogue with the government and to help formulate appropriate motional strategies that will buoy teachers on to give off their best. It is our hope that this day will come very soon as time is virtually an enemy to all of us from now to September.
Mr Chairman as medium term measure we call on government to do away with the three month arrears policy and explore better means of ensuring that salaries and upgrading are effected without delay. Efficient steps to avoid accumulation of salary arrears must be taken. However, if this should unavoidably happen, the teacher should not be made to pay the price for the accumulated arrears. It is in fact a double jeopardy to have one’ssalary or upgrading delayed for long period and when the time comes for one to be paid, one is paid only three (3) months. That policy is diabolical, inhuman and unreasonable. Honourable Minister, we please implore you to ensure that this policy is changed in the interest of industrial peace.
Mr. Chairman, our attention has been drawn to a recent publication by the Ghana Education Service (GES) regarding teachers who applied for change of date of birth. The said publication pointed to a temporary hold on all such applications at all levels. Much as we empathise with GES on the volume of work in dealing with this matter, we disagree with any attempts to delay investigation into such applications. Any such delays will mean some teachers will be compulsorily retired without being given a fair hearing. Let us remember that everyday teachers retire. We have had cases where GES has compulsorily retired some teachers but SSNIT has refused to pay them their pension because according to SSNIT records they have not attained the retirement age. Such people are made to suffer unduly. We implore GES to rather expedite action on all applications for change of date of birth, effect the necessary changes without any prejudices.
The construction of this edifice officially started in January 2015 after National Delegates Conference had given final approval to the initial estimates and designs presented by the project Consultants See Consult.
NAGRAT was blessed with this piece of land strategically located along the very popular street called Farrah Avenue that runs from the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Asylum Down to Adabraka.
With a plot size measuring 140ft by 60ft (42meters by 18meters) the design outcome was largely influenced by the shape, size and location of the piece of land.
We advised our Architects to come out with a “minimalist” and attractive design that would help highlight the ideals of our Association. The design is a symbolism of systematic and patient steps taken towards academic excellence.
In a very interesting manner we have combined the blue glass curtain walls and the brown metal “alocobond” panels in a manner that should symbolically inspire the public especially the youth of the virtues of patience and hard work. Also on the Eastern side of the building is a large symbolic sculptural pen reminding all and sundry of the historical and sentimental office tool of our teaching profession. Today, through hard work and organisation NAGRAT has an imposing seven (7) storey office building that includes a basement car park and 7 floors of offices and other support facilities.
There are 37 office cubicles, 3 conference rooms of varying capacities, a research library, a visitor’s lounge and a banking hall.
There are two elevators, the main staircase and an emergency staircase. Adequate restrooms have been provided on each floor including those for the physically challenged.
Finally the building has been equipped with all the necessary electronic, electrical, mechanical and safety facilities to make it function efficiently and satisfactorily. Due to the multipurpose design of this facility and its strategic location, parts of it will be let out to the business community to raise some income for the Association.
Mr. Chairman, I am personally impressed by what has been accomplished. I believe the Chairman, the Honourable Minister and the Honourable Deputy Minister are impressed. I believe the Reverends and the Traditional Authorities are impressed. Finally I believe my supportive NAGRAT members here and indeed distinguished ladies and gentlemen herein gathered are impressed.
I therefore take this opportunity to thank first my colleague national officers, national Executive Committee members, the National Council members, the National Delegates Conference for believing in this project giving their approval for the construction of this edifice. The NAGRAT Fund Board also deserves acknowledgement for their immeasurable support. Our project Consultants, See Consults deserve a lot of commendation for their design, advice and professional management of this project. We are equally grateful to the project Contractor, Ital Construct for the precise and timely execution of this wonderful project within a period of two years and four months. We are finally grateful to our neighbours for tolerating us in spite of the discomfort we caused them throughout the two and half years we have been on site.
Within the next two weeks the National Secretariat of NAGRAT will be relocated in this building. Thank you.