Today marked the first day of the new term. The office was fairly quiet and the people with whom I wanted to meet were not there. I took the opportunity to accompany an officer to do the first day attendance check in all the local schools. You can walk to all the 6 local schools as they are all on one huge site.
This census was most interesting. There were children in all schools but teachers in only 5. After a quick phone call the headteacher arrived and opened the doors for the children who had been playing quite happily together for an hour and a half. She had been helping to deliver her grandchild at home, apparently.
In each of the other schools children played around the site whilst others swept. We had quite a rain storm last night so there was plenty to be swept up and the children of all ages are extremely skilled at sweeping. One group of young boys expertly used a sheet of corrugated iron as a giant dustpan. Lessons don't start until at least tomorrow, possibly Monday. The teachers we saw were filling in registers and other administration whilst the children played out. In some schools just over half the teachers were present although 2 had their full quota. There is no system of supply teachers here. If yours is absent you play out!
Teachers are generally not respected here. There are not enough of them and they are not well paid. Those trained teach until they can find a better job. The absentees today will be questioned when they return to school but sanctions are useless as a teacher a few days a week is better than none at all to their class. I suggested they should be paid for the days they work. My colleague agreed but the administration of a system like that would be too much for Ghana and anyway, what about genuine sick leave?
I sympathise with the headteachers. They are under pressure to deliver training after school but their staff are often absent even while the children are there. Quite a challenge, and heads are paid very little more than their staff having been appointed by the District Office for being the best teachers...............sometimes they didn't even apply for the job!