Last week, the teachers in Kumasi went on strike. We got calls from the teachers at our schools who support our programs telling us not to bother coming, that there would be no classes. Three school days later and the teachers are still speaking with the government administration about pensions. Students are staying home across the city and there is little that we can do except wait.
Although it is common across Ghana for teachers to not show up to class, whether because of a family emergency or a doctor’s appointment, strikes of this nature are extremely detrimental to the students’ progress. They will miss days or even weeks of classes because of this fight over pensions, which may go to court.
It is not easy to be a teacher in Ghana. Class sizes in city schools are up to 50 or 60 students, the hours are long, and salaries may not be paid for months at a time. The teachers in Kumasi, where we are running our programs this term, have every right to demand appropriate compensation for their hard work. But we will be sure to see the effects of this strike in the coming months as students will be missing classes and the after school tutoring sessions that they have come to expect.
Some news articles have forecasted a decline in the passing rates for the BECE, the exam that junior high school students take at the end of their third year, and the WAASCE, the exam that senior high school students take to get to university.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched our senior high school tutors teaching the uses of adjectives or the addition and subtraction of fractions, and most importantly acting as role models for their junior high school students. It is easy to see in how the younger students listen to their tutors that they have great respect for what the older students are saying; through these interactions the high schoolers are emphasizing an interest in education. Through every action they are showing their younger siblings, people who live in their same community, how important it is to work hard and continue with school.
We can only hope that the teachers and the government are able to come to an agreement soon so that classes will run again. I am looking forward to seeing these wonderful tutors and students interacting again in our after school programs in the near future.
Kara Freedman is the Communications Manager at Exponential Education.