Curbing Absenteeism In Schools

amissah-arthurAt the recent World Teachers Day Celebration in Cape Coast, the Vice President, Mr. Kwesi BekoeAmissah-Arthur was quoted as
condemning as inexcusable and unacceptable,absenteeism of teachers in our public schools.

This view has subsequently been reinforced by an editorial comment in The Ghanaian Times dated 5th November, 2014, citing IMANIGhana’s Vice President, Kofi Bentil’s assertion that there is no justification for maintaining teachers in schools with the necessary resources, while students or pupils continue to score zero per cent in theirfinal examinations.

He subsequently recommended to the Ghana Education Service (GES) to dismiss non-performing teachers, as a way of improving standards in the public schools.

In this write up, we shall look at some of the causes of absenteeism, and general attitudes of teachers to work, the role of stakeholders, and proffer some solutions, to salvage the continued fall of standards in our public schools.

For the purposes of this write-up, shall define a school as an institution designed for the teaching of students or pupils, under the direction of teachers. In the case of Wikipedia: It may consist of the following segments:

* Kindergarten: This is also called pre-school. It is for children, typically between ages 3 and 5. Until recently, such schools were basically run by private, non-governmental-, and Christian organisations.

* Primary: Usually for young children

* Secondary/High: For teenager

* Higher/Tertiary: Post-High School, Polytechnics and the Universities.

The Management of pre-tertiary education is vested in the: Schools themselves, with supervision, monitoring and evaluation done at, Circuit, District, and Regional levels, The GES headquarters is the superintending agency.The Ministry of Education formulates the policies, and sees to their implementation. The essence of this arrangement is that all these bodies and units should ensure effective delivery at the pre-tertiary level. The question to ask is,“are they delivering on their mandates? If not, why?

By the school arrangement, the children, pupils and students are camped in a centralized location, usually serene, with much greenery and lushness, devoid of noise. The teacher is supposed to be trained, educated to have certain skills, to aid his/her impartation of knowledge, exhibit a type of behaviour from which the children entrusted to him, and even the larger society could learn and be wise, and a way of thinking and doing things which he/she could bequeath to them.

The school system should be premised on a curriculum,with quality indicators, and performance monitoring systems of all stages. The teachers are expected to cover the curriculum. Every school should set some standards for itself, and be able to measure itself against others, and tell them, “I do or perform better than you”.

There should be enough security and protection for the pupils, so they aren’t taken advantage of by marauders, hoodlums, terrorists and drug addicts. Indeed, no Boko Haram elements should be allowed within the precincts of any school or institution in the country.

From the foregoing, it could be inferred that regular school attendance is vital for the success of both students and pupils. In actual fact, Section 9(3) of the Ghana Education Service Act, 1995, (Act 506), specifically looks forward to teachers and pupils not being only regular at school, but punctually too.

All these have been put in place to ensure the attainment of envisaged results, which would enable the pupils and students to progress or proceed to the next stages, with parents and guardians, sure that their investments are yielding positive returns. With excessive absenteeism, this ideal situation cannot be achieved.

At this juncture, I wish to state that there are two forms of absenteeism – involuntary and voluntary. Involuntary absenteeism is that which is caused by factors beyond the control of the teacher. This could be illness, personal problems or any other critical situation which could prevent the teacher from going school. However, this should not be allowed to be perennial or habitual; it doesn’t create a proper tone of school. So answers must be sought for them, whenever they come up.

Voluntary absenteeism is that which is literally calledFrench leave. The teacher indulges in it without due notice, advance information or justifiable explanation. No school Head or the Ghana Education Service should tolerate this!

How do we then prevent absenteeism from the schools? It is widely agreed that one of the factors on which the success of a school is premised is leadership. Such leadership should be functional and effective. And the man or woman who symbolises this is the head teacher.

The head teacher must provide both professional and administrative guidance for his teachers. He/she should supervise the teachers at work, and ensure they utilise the contact hours as required of them. He/she should check truancy by both staff and pupils, and to some extent, ensure stafflive above reproach, even after school hours, when they return to the larger society. He/she must be non-compromising in his stance, and prepared to apply sanctions where and when necessary, and ask for assistance from on high, when the need arises.

All these he/she can do, if he/she is seen as an epitome of morality, serious and business-like. He/she may work quietly in his office, but register his/her presence in the school, and be visible when both staff and pupils are arriving at, and departing from the school, or moving from one place to the other. He/she should not countenance loitering by both staff and pupils, in whichever form.

Under the new Education Act, 2008 (Act 778), District Education Oversight Committees are to be established, with the District Chief Executive as the Chairman and mandated under Section 22(7) to oversee;

– the conditions of school buildings and other infrastructural requirements of the schools, including textbooks and other teaching and learning materials;

– the proper performance of functions by staff (in essence, teaching).

– receive complaints relating to, and from teachers, and act on them.

The questions to ask again are: “Have the DEOCs been doing this? Didn’t the AnamuahMensah Committee Report on the Review of Education Reforms in Ghana, 2002 indict them for failing to do so? Would they then sit up?

What about the teachers themselves?” They should not engage in activities which would bring their personalities and the profession into disrepute.

* They should be reminded that their foremost obligation is the development of the children entrusted to them, and should not renege on it.

* In times of trouble, they should approach their Unions for assistance.

* They should be fathers and mothers to the children.

* Male teachers shouldn’t/t take advantage of female pupils.

* They should teach, and teach well. Whether advertent or inadvertent, they should report for work regularly and punctually.

And parents? They should also live up to their responsibilities to their children and wards, and ensure they get the best education, to secure them healthy livelihoods in future. They should remember there’s no free lunch anywhere; after all, how are they men and women, if they cannot empiricise their obligations and commitments to their children and wards?

The onus lies on all of us. We should make sure the system works.

Thomas Musah

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