The teachers’ forum which drew its membership from schools in the Tamale Metropolis and the Savelugu District in Northern Ghana was held at the GILBT Training Centre in Tamale. It was organised by Savana Signatures (www.savsign.org) with the support of the International Institute for Communications and Development (www.iicd.org)
Some of the schools which were present at the forum include Savelugu Experimental Junior High School, Pong-Tamale Senior High School, Bishops’ Junior High School, Darul Hardis Junior High School, Dakpema Primary and Junior High Schools many among others. Present at the forum were head teachers, ICT teachers and other subject area teachers. Also present were some selected students of Savana Signatures ICT Club, the media and other sister NGO’s such as Action Aid Ghana, CALID, Child Reach International, ISODEC, Grassroot Sisterhood Foundation, Youth Action on Reproductive Order (YARO) and Initiative for Integrated Development (IFID).
The chairperson, Madam Fati Alhassan, the Executive Director of Grassroot Sisterhood Foundation, in her acceptance speech urged participants to pay keen attention to issues that will be discussed at the forum since ICT has come to stay and the earlier we embraced this reality, the better it will be for us as a people and as a nation.
Mr. Stephen Agbenyo, the Team Leader of Savana Signatures, under whose auspices the programme was organized, gave the welcome address. He thanked participants for availing themselves for the forum. He went on to give a short history and the gradual but forceful growth of his organisation. He also touched on the aims, vision and mission of Savana Signatures emphasising that using ICT for youth and women development and mainstreaming ICT use into our schools feature prominently on the agenda of Savana Signatures.
Making the first presentation on the topic: ICTs AND COLLEGES OF EDUCATION IN GHANA, Mr. Raphael McClure Adomey lamented that even though the 2002 strategic paper released by the World Bank identified that ICT development can increase the economic and social well-being of poor people, empower individuals and communities as well as enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency of the public sector including the delivery of social services, Ghana was still tottering on the road of ICT development. Touching on the state of ICT in Colleges of Education, the speaker identified among other things the fact that ICT syllabus for Colleges of Education were in outlines with no detailed explanation on topics, the short duration (two semesters) for ICT course, inadequate ICT lecturers and the deplorable state of computer laboratories. He further stated that due to the inadequacy and or the unavailability of both software and Hardware equipment and unreliable internet access in our schools, ICT lessons have become theory based with very little or no practical training at all. In spite of the fact that he identified key challenges that militate against mainstreaming ICTs into our schools and colleges, he was delighted that in the light of this gloomy picture laid, the hope that most ICT teachers despite their limited training are willing to impart that knowledge to their students. He concluded by urging Savana Signatures to try incorporate simple Computer Maintenance to their training packages to enable people do simple maintenance.
The second speaker for the day, Mr. Osman W. Usif made a presentation on the findings of a survey jointly financed and conducted by Savanna Signatures and Initiative For Integrated Development (IFID) on state of ICTs in schools in Northern Ghana. He opined that the main objective of the survey was to try to gain understanding of ICT situation in schools in Northern Ghana by sampling some schools and teachers as well as some head teachers in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions. In all, 449 Students were interviewed comprising 219 from Northern Region, 133 from the Upper East Region and, 97 from the Upper West Region. 57 ICT teachers from the three regions were also interviewed. 50 Head teachers were interviewed and seven District Officials, comprising three from Northern region, two from Upper East region and two from Upper West region were also interviewed.
Mr. Usif stated that the research findings revealed that majority of schools do not have ICT facilities let alone undertake practical training; thus 54.10% of respondents said that they did not have computers in their schools while 45.90% responded in the affirmative. Regarding electricity, the survey revealed that while 50% of schools had electricity, 50% did not have electricity.
In trying to find out where the schools get funds to purchase computers, the findings showed that the Parent Teacher Associations (PTA’s) played a pioneering role in this regard since 48.20% of respondents stated that the PTA provided their schools with computers while government support in this regard stood at 11.10% and that of NGO’s at 14.10%. The presenter at this point urged school authorities to collaborate with their respective PTA’s since a well facilitated process would see PTAs providing computers for pupils in their schools. Mr. Usif further emphasised that it is very pathetic to note that even though ICT is a practically oriented subject, the findings show that school ICT teachers focus on only the theoretical aspect of ICT due to the unavailability of either computers or electricity or both. The survey, he remarked, showed rather interesting findings when the question of whether ICT should be an examinable subject in view of the numerous constraints that are chocking it, majority of the respondents corresponding to 55.0% responded ‘YES’ citing the fact that it would not be fair to schools without computers and or electricity and also due to the inadequacy of ICT materials for enhanced learning. Those who were of the view that it should be an examinable subject also cited the fact that it will be the only way the government will be compelled to provide the necessary ICT equipment and more importantly the fact that ICT knowledge has become indispensable in this global village. Most of the ICT teachers lamented the inadequacy of ICT textbooks, the lack of funds to repair damaged computers and the lack of electricity to power the knowledge systems. Drawing the curtains on his submission, Mr. Usif stated that in spite of the unpleasant picture the findings produced, the hope laid in the consolation that there was a more positive attitude by all towards the need to inculcate ICT as part of the ecology of school life and the learning process in general. He therefore admonished all stake holders to strengthen the fight with the optimism that with the “Yes, We Can” attitude, we shall bridge this great digital divide.
Participants went on a snack break during which time they tried to network among themselves and discuss some of the key issues in the presentations that were made. This preceded the actual open forum which was next on the agenda. This part of the programme sought to get first hand knowledge from both the students, head teachers and teachers on the state of ICT in their schools and to brainstorm the way forward.
During the open forum, it came up that some of the schools, like Kamina Junior High School have the facilities, the staff needed professionalized training in order to put the center to maximum use while other schools like Darul Hardis Junior High School have 3 old computers but did not have electricity in the school and as such resoughted to carrying their computers to the mosque near by that had electricity each time they have practical lessons.
While teachers form Dakpema Primary school posited that they neither had computers nor electricity, those from Savelugu Experimental Junior High School said that they had only one computer and in adequate ICT textbooks. It also came up that in Bishop’s Junior High School, a private business man decided to build a computer laboratory for the students to use at a fee of GHC 2.00 per student per term but the initiative failed because students complained about the fact that the charge was too much for them. Some ICT teachers’ present also complained about the large number of students they have to handle and the fact that the large numbers and the lack of resources were some of their challenges. The open forum revealed a lot of paradoxes because while some schools had computers but lacked rooms to use as computer Labs, others had no computer but had enough rooms while other too had computers but were handicapped with electricity to power the machines.
Having identified these numerous challenges that militate against the smooth implementation of ICT into our schools, the Chairperson then asked the house to brainstorm and come out with the way forward. She set the pace by suggesting that all ICT teachers should also come out and conscript themselves in organised groups as we have in other subject areas like GAST( Ghana Association of Science Teachers) and GATE (Ghana Association of Teachers of English).This, she said, will give a voice to ICT teachers to raise their concerns. She further suggested that regular ICT clinics should be organised to equip both teachers and students on relevant ICT issues. The representative of Youth Action on Reproductive Order (YARO), an NGO also urged that if we needed to make progress in ICT in our schools, then our focus should be on teacher training Colleges since they are the people who can make the impact we desire as a country. The representative from CALID also suggested that NGO’s appeal to the Education authorities and the district assemblies to try and extend electricity to schools in their districts. Based on the research findings which were presented, most teachers said that it was vital to organise PTA meetings regularly in order to discuss issues bothering on school development. The head teacher of Darul Hardis Junior High School further urged teachers to try to indulge their heads to try to use part of the capitation grant to purchase some computers and other ICT accessories.
Some participants also urge SavSign to try and organise regular Radio discussions in order to provoke public attention on this issue. The Team Leader of SavSign, Agbenyo Stephen announced to the participants that his organisation in August of this year would be organising a three week hands on ICT training for interested teachers. He urged all interested teachers to visit the Savana Signatures office to register.