Every teacher in Ghana today seems disappointed in the three major unions (National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers Ghana (CCT-GH) due to their seemingly low effectiveness and efficiency in being the voice of teachers. In fact, low member morale and high disappointment is hurting teachers and their perceptions about the unions are not one that speaks well of the unions today.
What teacher unions must do about the low teacher morale and high disappointment in leadership among members is a major issue that must engage their attention. Tempers are flaring up among the teaching fraternity over current developments of 4% pay rise and no teacher can be a millionaire mindset of political leadership coupled with the lack of proactive action and the zeal of teacher unions and the one teacher one laptop.
Others are the failure of teacher unions to push the government to upgrade teachers who have been overdue for promotion; teachers who have gone on study leave with pay yet remain where they were before their upgrade. The list said about the promotion examination and the GTLE results the better.
Per a poll conducted by Ghanaeducation.org, 72% of teachers who participated believe the results of the teacher promotion and the GTLE do not reflect the true outcome of the two examinations and that, some manipulations might have occurred to deny teachers what they actually worked for in the said examinations.
In the history of mankind, many national or union breakaways have occurred due to the inability of such unions or nations to meet the needs of members, seek the utmost interest of members, and bury their individual interests for the sake of the total good of members.
Teacher unions in Ghana lead by leadership have a lot to do if they are to reignite the confidence of members and cause the morale of teachers to rise above the current disheartening levels.
Teacher unions in Ghana today may be doing their best but the reality is that teachers have lost interest in them and see the unions as though they were clubs.
Dues collection, loan granting as high interest, polo shirts distribution which teaches struggle to even receive, failing ability to negotiate better base pay, inability to take entrenched positions when the stakes are high and in favour of teachers is absent. The diplomatic strategies of union leadership look more politically skewed postures and this does not help teachers in any way.
If public school teachers are given the chance, many of them would prefer not to belong to any of the unions because of the current low 4% pay rise and other protracted challenges. The teacher unions have failed teachers for not taking proactive steps against the annoying 4% raise in pay until several agitations from teachers.
The unions simply failed because of low vested interests and lack of commitment on their part. This ‘lack of commitment’ limits the required attitude, knowledge, skill, and application of effort for sustained success. The diplomacy of unions hurts teachers so much in the end, making the teacher feel their concerns and needs have been neglected.
Teacher Unions and the reality of today – Research and public opinion
The time to consolidate teacher unions for efficiency is now. Today, research indicates there are close to 14 teacher unions out there. The question is why? The answer is simple, once a group of teachers feel their needs are not met, they exit one union and form another but soon begin to operate just like the others.
Teachers’ voices will go nowhere if there are so many unions. Variety is not always a spice of life in this case because the more unions we have in the teaching sector the weaker they become.
The 15th-century unionization mindsets need to change while proactive, and forward-looking unions are birthed in the education sector to champion the issues of teachers and put government and related agencies on their toes constantly.
Teacher unions should be careful they do not destroy themselves and each other because they are all witnessing the near-total destruction of the very promises to ensure the empowerment of workers (teachers) seek their welfare and financial security among others.
Today, old and young teachers are seeking to understand the real value of being members of unions that they belong to. Sadly, they see nothing. Young people have begun to question some of the decisions and negotiation outcomes of unions.
There is a new surge in interest among young members who have a different mindset for joining the union compared to what leadership has been preaching and parading.
This new labor energy is partly reflected by the discouraging extent to which national politicians are describing education and its earning potentials to the extent that the President feels teachers cannot be millionaires because the teaching profession does not make educations rich. However, the current generation of teacher believe that politicians need to be challenged by unions for teachers to be paid far better than what they are currently receiving and that systems have been put in place to keep the teacher poor.
The days of teacher unions’ are thinking block and stones are over, the new paradigm requires them to think creatively and bring agility to bear in their plans and objectives for the teaching fraternity. The outlines of new labour thinking is visible in the recent efforts of teachers to get their GES to fix itself, unions and their allies to remake collective forward-looking decisions and for the unions to organize teacher-centred campaigns for the twenty-first-century Ghanaian teacher to ensure better pay, conditions of service and other related benefits for teachers.
These efforts and calls by teachers have given rise to a conscious rethinking and broadening of the participants, processes, and purposes, and teachers are beginning to speak out. But the truth is, teacher unions lack the willpower to push the agenda of their members.
Consolidate teacher unions for efficiency
If that is the reality, then the unions are weak as individual units and teachers are calling for the consolidation of all unions into one big force. This synergic approach has the potential to shake the roots of government and the powers that be to ensure the teaching profession is given the rightful recognition. The teacher unions, together as one big union will be too powerful for the government to toy with. Ghanaeducation.org conducted a 72-hour poll to find out from teachers if the merging or unification of the unions will make teachers’ voices stronger. The result was overwhelming as 65% of teachers who took part in the poll believed the merging of the unions is the way to go.
The old-fashioned bargaining needs to change into greater militancy, to get it opened it up to greater transparency.
Teachers will not be able to build a better future if teacher unions remain individualistic by clinging to strategies of the past. A new path needs to be chartered by teacher unions, and the first road to that is a consolidation of the unions. This will call for many sacrifices from members across the unions in the best interest of the sector.
This campaign has begun and the work of radically re-imagining and redefining the goals and mission of organizing teachers at the union level needs to be changed as well to reflect the modern aspirations of teachers in Ghana.
Innovative organizing and bargaining initiatives have to be embraced by teacher unions. A consolidated teacher union needs to employ professionals and strategists, and the practice of relying on teachers for such professional functions has not helped teacher unions.
The consolidated teacher union needs strategists, specialists in bargaining and persuasion, investment specialist, development specialists among others to champion the key sectors of the teacher union.
The way forward for teacher unions in Ghana
It is time to move from the several unions, consolidate teacher unions into one for efficiency and help reduce the low member morale and high disappointment. The crusade needs to start with the leadership of GNAT, NAGRAT, and CCT-GH
There is a need for the adaptation of unions toward meeting the ever-changing needs of members. This is one of the best ways unions can keep in touch with members.
Simple but well thought of research at least twice a year will afford the teacher union(s) the chance to know how well they have done, challenges confronting members, expectations among others.
This helps for planning purposes in measuring impact among others. You cannot fail teachers anymore. The time to shelve the individual union interest and personal desires of leadership are over. Arise and make the Ghanaian teacher proud for the benefits we gain when we consolidate teacher unions for efficiency is greater than the success of individual unions added.
Source: Wisdom Hammond | Educator and Leadership Expert