By Amin Kef Sesay
Because successive Governments since the 1980s failed woefully to put teachers at the apex of the education triangle the country saw a rapid dramatic deterioration in educational standards and outcomes.
Even under President Bio’s reformist New Direction Government’s Free Quality Education vision, teachers continue to have a poor deal thereby severely compromising and undermining the good intentions of the FQE.
Generally, the education sector continues to face serious challenges of deplorable teacher remuneration, relative to other professions that serve humanity, inadequate education financing, weak education system capacity and weak link with the world of work.
The Government in improving education standards and outcomes has to look far beyond just paying fees and providing free textbooks to the welfare and conditions of service of teachers as the providers of knowledge and the moral and ethical guides in our children’s upbringing as future parents and leaders.
In which light, the challenges facing teachers are not only limited to laughable payments but include overcrowded classrooms, the medium of instruction (English) that many teachers and learners have not mastered, lack of teaching resources, learner performance and most importantly, discipline.
Teacher attendance and time on task provides insights into the drivers of primary school teacher absenteeism, a major obstacle in efforts to address the learning crisis.
Reduced teacher time on task (because of spending more time “dregging” )is the greatest challenge toward inclusive and quality education.
This clearly shows that the challenges faced by teachers require improved policies on working conditions, accountability and motivation.
Teachers attending lessons and spending time on task is a prerequisite for learning. Half of 10-year-olds in our public funded schools cannot read and understand a simple text.
This research identifies promising practices for supporting teachers and improving policies for a more motivated and effective teaching workforce, one of the most important factors for addressing the learning crisis.
How much is being invested heavily in teacher development and support?
What is paramount is that the key insights on teachers’ conditions is that effective and consistently applied accountability, training and support, career development and remuneration systems – remain critical to improve teachers’ attendance and time on task.
When teachers are absent from school because they are disgruntled with pay and work conditions, they do not deliver instruction. So you find out that our children are pushed from one class to the other without having learned anything substantial.
Teacher absenteeism is higher in rural areas than in urban/peri-urban areas and higher in public schools than in private schools;
‘Moonlighting’ teachers, who hold multiple jobs, are more likely to report being absent compared with teachers who receive income exclusively from the teaching profession, as volunteer teachers compared with non-volunteer teachers.
Teachers who perceive their head teacher as actively discouraging absenteeism, report being more often at school and spending more time on task;
Stronger parental and community engagement in teacher monitoring is also associated with improved teacher attendance;
Teachers who receive their salary on time and with relative ease report lower rates of absenteeism than teachers who face delays and difficulties in collecting their pay.
Main Policy Recommendations
Instead of non-payment of fees, charge a reasonable fee per term or year for each learner and use the huge amount of money generated to improve on teachers’ salaries and work conditions;
Strengthen inter-sectoral collaboration to address factors beyond the education system, in particular health and infrastructure;
Ensure that head teachers are trained in management and leadership including monitoring and oversight, curriculum implementation and supervision;
Boost parental and community involvement to include a monitoring role and strengthening of their representation on school councils and management boards;
Remove obstacles to receiving pay including increased pay points in remote areas and establishing a Rota system to ensure schools continue to function at pay collection time.
Ensure that teacher training has a strong practical component and is not organized in a way that leaves students without a teacher or a substitute teacher;
Make distribution of teachers across schools more equitable including incentive strategies to make postings in rural and hardship areas more attractive;
Such policies will help increase opportunities for children to learn and, ultimately, improve their life and work opportunities.