Ghana: The Unending Fracas of PTAs and Ministry of Education

Minister of Education, Ghana, Dr Matthew Opoku-Prempeh

Accra, Ghana, March 17, 2019//-The issue of dues (levies) which has been the bone of contention between the Education Ministry and Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) in the country seems not to be nearing common ground as far as the two stakeholders of education in the country are concerned.

While Ghana’s Minister of Education, Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, is in for the PTAs within Ghana’s educational system to shift their focus from dues collection to demanding accountability from the schools on the quality of education and their learning outcomes; the PTAs “are working on a new operational strategy and that the National Executive Council is far advanced in setting up a new national payment system where all monies will be collected and disbursed to various schools to cater for specifics.”

The Education Minister who has met the National Executives of the PTAs in his office on Friday,  March 15,2019, was not happy that, “the PTAs have now become synonymous to money collection and this should not be the case.”

According to Dr Prempeh, the PTAs should rearrange their priorities, focus on how they can get the best out of teachers, engage and partner the Ghana Education Service (GES) to improve accountability in schools and rebrand the entire PTA from a levy collecting association to a strong body that puts schools on their toes to perform as expected.

PTAs have been in the country for years doing what the government cannot do alone, by providing dormitories, assembly halls, vehicles (means of transport), classrooms, playing fields, school security walls, etc. etc.

Though certain people in society have not been enthused with their fund raising tactics the introduction of the Free Senior High School Policy seems to have sounded the Associations death knell.

Earlier in the year, The GES suspended the collection of levies under the auspices of PTAs in all public senior high schools (SHSs) and technical/vocational institutions (TVETs).

The position of the Education Ministry was that: the rampant excessive and over-charging of unnecessary items as PTA levy’s against guidelines has reached the attention of GES.

It is leading to disruption in academic calendar for some students which is expressly forbidden. So GES has suspended forthwith the charging of any such levies till it’s better streamlined and controlled even though GES before this introduction had already caused to be submitted letters to all heads barring them from charging PTA dues; the implementation of Free SHS covered the payment of PTA dues where government paid for each school going child 10cedis so as to avoid instances where students were punished or penalised for non-payment of fees; government also agreed with National PTA that, parents may willingly decide to pay some amounts of money to schools, but it should not be done under compulsion; which meant that, Old students or PTA may exist but it should not prevent any child from going to school.

The Ministry noted that the GES was to hold a meeting with the National PTA association and heads of schools in the near term to discuss and review their position on any such levies.

In media interaction in Accra the Director-General of the GES, Prof Kwasi Opoku Amankwa,  made it clear: “These levies are defeating the objective of the government in removing cost as a barrier to secondary education in Ghana”.

While acknowledging the important role PTAs were playing in the running of schools Prof Opoku Amankwa emphasised that PTAs were associations, just like all other groupings, such as old students associations, and should, therefore, not use the school system to collect their levies.

As if that was not enough the Council Chairman of the GES, Mr Michael Nsowah, cautioned that management of the GES would sanction heads of SHSs/TVET who meddle in PTA activities.

He was not happy with the situation where some heads of SHSs wanted to control the funds of PTAs and asked parents to ignore any PTA dues circulated to them on the letterheads of their children’s schools.

Reacting to the situation the National Council of Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) decided on a consultative meeting with relevant stakeholders over the suspension of the PTA dues. “This is going to give us an opportunity to sit down with the GES, the ministries and other officials to look at the way forward”’ he said.

He disclosed: “We were asked to collect our own dues and levies as an association and run the way we wanted it. Some of the school heads are peeved because they are no longer collecting the dues.

They [heads] were making use of the dues because there was a circular that these heads should be signatories to the PTA accounts. Now, that they have been asked to wash their hands away from the PTA dues, they are peeved and not prepared to back off PTA activities”.
The PTA is a school-based organisation with a mission to make the school a better place for children to learn. Parents of students work together with teachers to volunteer in classes, raise money for school supplies, and generally support the school’s efforts.

PTA members are parent volunteers, and while some schools have large PTAs with officers, a bookkeeper, and an operating budget, other schools have effective PTAs consisting of only a few motivated parents.

Most PTAs, spread in many countries worldwide, set a membership fee and use that money to support teachers.

The membership fees give parents who want to be involved a way to do so without necessarily committing time to help in classrooms or with after-school programs and fund-raisers. Instead of fees, some PTAs draw on parent donations and fund-raising activities to cover their budgets. Fund-raising can involve sales campaigns, securing the support of local businesses, or bringing in donations from other parents and the community. The goal is to shore up holes in a school’s budget and to provide teachers with the supplies and support they need to effectively do their jobs.

It is common for a local PTA to write a regular newsletter to keep parents informed about what is happening at the school. This might be a physical paper, an email blast, or an updated social media page.

PTA officers can also function as intermediaries for less formal lines of communication between schools and the community. It is common for school committees to have a PTA representative who helps administrators and teachers make decisions that are best for the students. In that way, the PTA can empower parents to have more of a say in what happens in their children’s schools.

In many jurisdictions an active PTA can improve school climate, which can lead to more learning. Students perform better at schools where their parents are involved.

The visible presence of parents around the school can also make those buildings safer and more orderly.

In classrooms, volunteers can take some of the load off overworked teachers to allow them to concentrate more fully on their central role of teaching students.

PTA members can share expertise with students, giving young learners more positive, professional role-models.

Additionally, a school with an active PTA will have parents who know what is happening in the school, what is being taught, and what is expected of their children. This is a great boost to school climate because parents and teachers become part of the same team, and that unity improves learning.

Schools with a strong PTA often even see a boost in attendance; parents who are invested in a school are more likely to ensure that their children will get there each day.

One important function of the PTA is to boost morale for teachers and administrators. Parent-teacher relations can sometimes feel adversarial when parents are not fully aware of the school’s programs, curriculum, or procedures. The PTA creates a more open dialog between parents and teachers, which reduces tensions.

PTAs often step in to donate needed items to classrooms that schools are unwilling or unable to purchase, and many provide snacks or small prizes to teachers to show their appreciation. These activities help improve teacher morale, which in turn positively affects student learning.

By Oppong Baah, African Eye Report

 

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