By Maxine Danso and Nathan Gadugah
Claim: 44,000 teachers out of 284,000 basic education teachers left the teaching profession in 2021 alone. This is 15%, the highest in 20 years. They left mostly because of poor remuneration, lack of logistics etc – Dr. Apaak
Even though the number of basic school teachers in 2021 was reduced by over 44,000, it had nothing to do with poor working conditions of teachers but more to do with the technical definition of who a trained teacher is during the compilation of the data.
In January 2022, when the usual Twitter banter started on “phrases Ghanaian school teachers use,” it was identified that not only were Ghanaian basic school teachers humorous in their use of language but also, they had similar traits allowing for most Millennials across the country to share experiences from basic school. Unfortunately, no one would be able to have a basic school-teacher experience to recount if a high number of teachers were resigning or not at post. More importantly, children of school age would have no basic education at all. And on a developmental level, Ghana will not be able to meet all 10 educational targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 set for 2030 if adequate teachers are not available to teach.
It is in this vein that Dr. Clement Apaak’s January 10, 2022 claim about the attrition rate of teachers in basic school, created heated public debate in the educational sub-sector with a tinge of partisanship especially on Facebook.
Titled “Education in Crisis – Basic Schools,” the Member of Parliament for Builsa South and a Deputy Ranking Member on the Education Committee of Parliament highlighted some issues concerning the state of public basic schools on his Facebook page with the most topical of them all being a claim that: “44,000 teachers out of 284,000 basic school teachers left the teaching profession in 2021 alone. This is 15%, the highest in 20 years. Why did they walk away from the classroom, and how soon will they be replaced?,” Dr. Apaak asked.
His statement has sparked some controversy on social as well as on traditional media with varying sentiments from readers. Dr. Apaak has since granted a number of interviews including the one on TV3, in which he reiterated the claim and added that unsatisfactory conditions of service, no appropriate tools to perform, and remuneration were reported reasons for the walking out of these 44,000 basic school teachers.
Contrary figures from other high-ranking persons on Facebook
Shortly after Apaak’s claim, the Spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Kwasi Kwarteng rebutted, stating that the figures by Dr. Clement Apaak were misleading. In a Facebook post on 20 January 2022, Mr. Kwarteng stated,
“Claims that 44,000 teachers walked out of the classroom can only be described as assumptive speculations and deliberate misrepresentation. In effect, no one left!”
He attached a press release that explains what accounts for the varying figures from the Education Management Information System (EMIS).
In an updated Facebook post on Friday 21 January 2022 emphasising the reason for the inaccurate figures, Kwasi Kwarteng further explained the number of teachers who resigned from the basic schools in 2021.
“In terms of teacher resignation, our official records show that 293 teachers left the profession in 2021 whilst 155 left the GES in 2020. For the avoidance of doubt I encourage Dr. Clement Apaak & Kofi Asare of Eduwatch to cross-check these figures with Controller & Accountant’s General Department,” Mr. Kwarteng stated.
The figure of 293 teacher resignations stated by the Ministry of Education spokesperson was corroborated by a Facebook post by Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, a veteran journalist and Managing Editor of the New Crusading Guide Newspaper, who published data he reportedly sourced from the official file of Ghana Education Service.
Given the interest that this issue has generated and the potential effect on the quality of education at the basic level, DUBAWA decided to investigate the claim first made by Dr. Apaak. It is important to note that the original claim made no reference to a source. We therefore decided to contact Dr. Apaak to provide a source for his claim and to probe how this was going to affect the education sector if it was proven to be true. We sent him a text message on January 18, followed up with a number of calls requesting an interview on the matter. He was largely busy, partly because of the controversial e-levy which was before Parliament. In our last attempt at an interview request on January 26, Dr. Apaak declined, saying “I will issue a statement on this at the right time.” DUBAWA is yet to see any statement from the Member of Parliament at the time of publication.
We proceeded to the Ghana Education Service (GES) which is the implementing arm of government’s policies and programs at the pre-tertiary level. The Service has a mission to ensure “that all Ghanaian children of school-going age are provided with inclusive and equitable quality formal education and training through effective and efficient management of resources.”
DUBAWA spoke with the Director General of the Service, Prof Kwasi Opoku-Amankwaa, to find out the attrition rate of teachers, especially for the 2021 academic year. Prof Amankwaa denied the claim by Apaak and provided data from the Service’s payroll in 2021. The data was the same as the one posted by Abdul Malik Kweku Baako on Facebook.
“I guess this will help you. This is from our payroll database. The actual number of people who resigned is 293. And the total attrition [rate] is 8,209,” Prof Amankwaa stated.
He explained further that the 8,209 teachers who were deemed to have left, was an aggregate figure for teachers who were deceased, dismissed, vacated their posts, resigned, or even went on voluntary or compulsory retirement.
In DUBAWA’s conversation on the same matter with the sector Minister, Dr. Yaw Adutwum, said “it cannot be the case that 44,000 teachers left the profession in 2021. In a COVID 19 situation, what will they [44,000 teachers] be resigning to?”
Quoting the GES figure, Dr. Adutwum said only 293 teachers left the profession.
Validity of EMIS
The EMIS Data Center, launched in 1997 as part of the Free Compulsory Basic Education (FCUBE), is recognized by UNESCO and other international and regional bodies as a reference point for accurate data on education in Ghana.
In investigating the Apaak claim further, DUBAWA checked the (EMIS) data website at the Ministry of Education to analyse the enrolment of pupils in comparison with the number of teachers at least for the 2019-2020 and the 2020-2021 academic years. When DUBAWA checked the EMIS website it found data up to 2019-2020. The following is the data, detailing the number of pupils in basic education vis-a-vis the total number of teachers which is known as the Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR). However, that ratio is different from the PTTR which is the ratio of pupils to TRAINED teachers.
2019/2020 Public School Pupil to Teacher Ratio
The data for 2020-2021 was not readily available on the EMIS website. An official at the EMIS Ghana office however provided DUBAWA with the provisional 2020-2021 data. Investigations showed that Eduwatch, an educational policy think tank had access to the same data. The provisional 2021 data detailing the PTR for 2020-2021 is as follows;
2020/2021 Public School Pupil to Teacher Ratio
Explaining the 44,000 figure
When DUBAWA analysed the figures for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, it observed that over 44,000 teachers could not be accounted for. In the 2020 data, the total number of teachers was 283,430 as against a student population of 5,876,785 pupils. But in the provisional 2021 figure which is the subject of controversy, the total number of teachers was 239,180 as against a pupil population of 5,879,147.
Therefore, 283,430-239,180=44,250 teachers were not accounted for in the 2021 EMIS data.
So where did these 44,250 teachers go?
Even though Dr. Apaak stated that 44,000 of these teachers left the profession, the reasons he adduced for the supposed attrition rate of basic school teachers may have been inaccurate.
Further checks by DUBAWA indicate that the disparity in the PTR for 2020 and 2021 EMIS data has more to do with the nomenclature used by the EMIS officials in gathering the data than 44,000 teachers deciding to quit their jobs.
According to an official, EMIS always drew a clear line of distinction between trained and untrained teachers to be able to arrive at figures for PTR and PTTR. They always put a premium on the PTTR which is the total number of trained teachers as against the enrollment (pupils). The PTR, the official explained, were non-professional teachers, mostly including retirees, mentees, national service personnel, community workers, NABCO, volunteers, some of whom are replaced every year.
However, in compiling the 2020 data in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the non-professional teachers were captured as part of the PTTR which shot the total number of trained teachers to 283,430.
Therefore in the 2021 compilation, the official noted that questionnaires and data collection materials were modified to correct the anomaly in 2020 and draw a line of distinction between the professional teachers and the non-professional ones as was done in previous years. This brought to 239,180, the total number of trained teachers in 2021.
The official further explained it is usually easier to replace the non-professional teachers, for instance, the mentees, national service personnel, etc – most of whom are employed on a part-time basis.
“It cannot be the case that 44,000 teachers vacate their posts in 2021,” the official clarified.
DUBAWA went further to analyse the EMIS data over the last five-year period and found the following:
|YEAR||NUMBER OF TEACHERS|
After a five-year analysis of the data, DUBAWA observed an astronomical increase in the number of teachers in 2020, the year COVID 19 hit in Ghana and the globe as a whole. This is awkward because in 2020 schools were shut down due to the pandemic and public school teachers were paid for little or no work done. It will be inappropriate for the government to employ over 39,000 more teachers to sit at home and pay them for no work.
By the same token, in 2021 when the economy has been constricted by COVID 19, with lots of job losses, it will be surprising for 44,250 basic school teachers to leave the teaching profession for non-existent jobs.
Without providing the proper context, it is misleading to suggest that 44,000 basic school teachers resigned from the profession in 2021 alone. While the EMIS data for 2021 show a reduction in the number of teachers by over 44,000, the reason for the reduction cannot be said to be as a result of teacher attrition due to poor conditions of service. If anything, the only verifiable data that summarize the attrition rate of teachers is the one provided by the GES which concludes that 293 basic school teachers resigned, while the total teacher attrition rate was 8,209 in 2021.