Mr Speaker, I also rise to lend my voice of support to the Statement ably made by our Hon Colleague, Hon Peter Nortsu-Kotoe.
Mr Speaker, this is a day that has been set aside to recognise the contribution of teachers to the sustenance of economies in the world. We must commend teachers for bringing illumination to societies across the world.
We all do appreciate what teachers have been doing to propel the systems that we have in the country. All professions and vocations have to be nurtured by teachers and I agree with my Hon Colleagues who have spoken ahead of me that, while recognising teachers and commending their efforts and showing gratitude to them for the sacrifices that they have offered and keep offering, we
must also look at sanitising the physical environment that they operate in.
Mr Speaker, year in, year out and indeed, in each Meeting, Hon Members come and file Questions relating to the physical conditions of classrooms that the teachers operate in. Mr Speaker, I believe that the time has come for us to dedicate certain years to rehabilitate the schools that we have in the system.
We are adding to the stock by the route of Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) to build more classrooms, yet those that have existed 20 years or 30 years ago are in a state of near- collapse. I believe that the time has come for us to have a rethink and dedicate maybe a year out of four years, the amount that we allocate to GETFund to rehabilitate the schools. We just need a system of protecting the walls; we should have wall protection schemes and roof protection schemes for them and we would be able to save many of these schools from collapsing and make the environment more learning-friendly and teaching- friendly.
Mr Speaker, another issue that should also concern us which my Hon Colleagues have alluded to, is the salaries of teachers. I believe that as a nation, we should re- determine our national priority and position the teachers at an appreciable level. Mr Speaker, not until we come to that determination or consensus as a nation, we shall always be listening to tales about the agony of teachers.
In Canada, they have determined that teachers should occupy the centre stage in their public service. So, in Canada, the salary of teachers is very appreciable and many people would want to go into the teaching field. Mr Speaker, I believe that in Ghana, we should come to some determination on this.
I agree with Hon Hajia Laadi Ayamba that by way of further motivating teachers -- just like it is done for our farmers where recognition of their efforts start from the districts -- firstly, we should recognise best teachers in the districts every year and that would lead up to the national level where a reward would be given to the national best teacher.
Mr Speaker, they should go through the ladder and every teacher in any district who puts in recognisable efforts and who by demonstrable competence is able to prove to his or her peers and the heads of the institution that he or she is one to be emulated, would be given the necessary recognition.
Mr Speaker, while at this, we must also relate to the pension allowance of teachers, which is nothing to write home about. I believe that we should interrogate the issues. A person offers his service to the nation for 40 years, 45 years, and in some cases, close to 50 years and he goes home, having nurtured maybe over 20,000 pupils in the nation throughout his career, and at the end of that period, we give him GH¢300.00 and even GH¢200.00 in some cases.
What is the person required to do with that? Mr Speaker, so, we must interrogate these matters if we want to encourage teachers to be retained in the classrooms to offer their best to the children of Ghana.
Mr Speaker, classroom sizes are increasing and these days we are entrusting more responsibilities to the teachers than it used to be, and that is why their concern should be our concern. Mr Speaker, I guess that we should also interrogate the fact that, if we leave the big cities and go to the countryside, we
have very few teachers -- Yesterday on my way to Parliament, I was listening to a programme which related to a particular classroom at a particular location where one teacher was made to handle three classrooms.
Mr Speaker, I believe that as a nation, we should delve deeper into this. This is because there are about 236,000 teachers in the system who are supposed to be teaching about six million pupils. A simple arithmetic would suggest that, one teacher should not handle more than 25 pupils. Yet we know that in so many places the teachers handle more than 50, 60 and 70 pupils.
What is happening? Is it the case that we are not getting the figures right or our statistics are faulty? Otherwise, if we have six million pupils and we have 236,000 teachers in the system, then on the average, a teacher should not handle more than 24 pupils or 25 pupils in a class. So, what is happening, such that so many classrooms do not have teachers? The Ministry for Education would need to conduct further investigations into this to let us know what is really causing this.
Mr Speaker, the issue about licensing of teachers appears to be causing some disquiet; but let us face it; teaching is a profession. Pharmacists are trained and they have to be licensed to be able to practise. Medical officers are trained and they have to be licensed; lawyers are trained, they have to be licensed; engineers, planners, architects -- all these professions after they are trained may have to be given licences. So, if we recognise teaching as a profession, then why are people kicking against licensing teachers.
I agree that if we would have to confront 236,000 teachers and apply licences to them at one go, it may be difficult. How do we stagger it? So, it is