Only 10% of graduates find jobs in the first year after they have graduated from the University (ISSER, 2017). To contextualize this, 90,0000 out of the 100,000 graduates from our universities have no jobs after they have completed their mandatory national service.
Even more shocking is the finding that it may take up to 10 years for a large number of graduates to secure employment after school (ibid). This paints an eeyorish and despondent picture for graduates and calls to question policies made by successive governments aimed at addressing graduate unemployment.
A number of solutions have been contemplated over the years—the most recent being NABCO. In this piece, I make the argument that government should endeavour recruiting graduates as teachers until they want to leave the teaching field. Put succinctly, all graduates should be eligible to teach after leaving the university. They should be placed in the classroom to equip students with skills and knowledge, change their mindsets and expose them to opportunities around them.
There have been concerns of understaffing in most public schools in Ghana, especially in under-resourced communities. Our major news bulletins are replete with instances where a teacher acts as the headteacher of a school, and at the same time teaches pupils from basic one through to basic six.
Those schools lucky enough to have few teachers resort to a teacher handling about three classes. Clearly, there is the need to deploy more teachers to under-resourced communities to help bring some parity, for children in such areas to have access to quality education as their peers in the urban centres.
Can graduates teach?
More than half of all national service postings are to the educational sector. Put plainly, over 50,000 graduates are posted to teach as their mandatory national service every year (from 2017). The ability of graduates to teach is therefore not a subject of dispute. There are cases where such national service teachers impart better than some traditional teachers (but this is another issue to be explored in a different piece).
As a preparatory measure, universities should introduce two-semester courses on teaching philosophies and methodologies. This ensures that graduates have at least the basic teaching skills before leaving the university. Then, graduates posted to schools should be assigned mentors for at least the first six months, where they will further consolidate their teaching strategies.
Can all these graduate teachers be paid?
The average salary of a Ghanaian teacher at the basic level is GHC 1,200 per month. This translates into GHC 14,400 for the whole year. This amount is way less than the monthly salary of the National Service Boss who takes GHC 47,770 every month. The average teacher has to work for three and half years in order to earn what the National Service Boss earns in just a month. I will spare you the humongous salaries the SSNIT boss and co. take every month. Maybe when we become serious, we will propose a restructuring of salaries in this country to redistribute income and wealth.
Is it not disconcerting that Ghana, a small country with just over 30 million people loses 13.5 billion dollars every year to corruption? (CHRAJ, 2019). The figure I just quoted is in billions of dollars not millions. Now to put this into proper perspective, the cost of a 24-unit classroom block is $303,000 (US dollars). Which means that we can build over 11,000 of such 24-unit classroom blocks in Ghana out of the money lost to corruption alone—in a year. And if we were to build 11,000 of the 24-unit classroom blocks across the 275 constituencies in Ghana, each constituency will have over 40 24-unit classroom blocks. Now close your eyes and picture 40 new schools littered across your constituency every year. What a game-changer for education in Ghana! The money lost to corruption alone can pay 90,000 teachers for two years. It is conspicuously evident that we can indeed pay these teachers should government decide to absorb them into the educational sector.
What are the potential dividends?
Putting top-notch graduates in the classrooms will inevitably translate into higher academic achievements for students in under-served areas. These students have been marginalized primarily as a result of their geographic location. A program which commits graduates to teaching in these areas will not only improve the standards but breathe hope into our almost-dysfunctional public basic education system.
Also, teachers living and working in under-resourced communities contribute to the local economy of the area. Graduate teachers will spend their salaries in these rural communities thereby injecting more money into the local economy. This has the propensity to improve the economic conditions of the area, lifting the average jack out of poverty.
Then again, graduates will become aware of the inequalities in such areas and make conscious efforts to address them. For instance, a number of graduates who go to underserved communities to teach during their national service start NGOs or social enterprises aimed at addressing challenges in the area.
This does not only contribute to the chain of development but prepares these graduates who will soon become policymakers to adequately formulate policy solutions to the many challenges facing the nation.
It deserves mentioning that, university leaders who do not find jobs after university venture into small businesses, and number of them regrettably in the informal sectors. We could compile an endless list of graduates who are into bread making, sobolo making, plantain chips among the many lots.
I am not suggesting, in the slightest sense, that graduates should not venture into such enterprises. Far from that! My point is, the preponderance of graduates in the non-formal sector usually crowd-out the sector. Our contemporaries who are unable to move up the educational ladder thrive in some of these ventures. Hence, populating the non-formal sector with graduates affect their chances of success and most times, push them out of business. The case being made here is to let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too, but if one says no to the other, let her wings clip.
To conclude, teaching should not be the reserve of teachers from colleges of education or education-oriented universities. The bureaucracy of getting into the Ghana Education Service is daunting and depressing.
The status quo has not culminated into any breathtaking benefits and new ideas and approaches ought to be welcomed and embraced. Graduates from the University are a nation’s assets. They should not be left to rot at home while looking for jobs that do not exist. Government ought to be deliberate about harnessing these potentials and turn the rather morbid status quo to one gleaming with verve and fervour.
Author: Lord Horlali Bobbie
Email: [email protected]
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