Growing up, I witnessed a profession that was praised yet surrounded by countless industrial actions to demand for one thing; better conditions of service for the teacher. It was always one strike action after another with the same common issue of improving the welfare of the teacher.
At that infant stage, some of us could not appreciate what the teacher went through before he could afford a bicycle to commute to school every morning.
It was not until I joined the “celebrated” noble profession before I understood the injustices that our old hand teachers suffered before they retired without any material legacy after helping to build the legacy of our nation’s future.
The experienced ones in the profession repeatedly said to us that to be comfortable in the teaching profession depended on how well a young newly employed teacher is able to make economic use of the accumulated salary often taken as back pay.
The phenomenon “back Pay” found its widespread use in our labour lexicon to mean accumulated wages or salaries paid to a newly employed worker after several months of working without any economic reward.
In Ghana and especially the Ghana education service, back pay could mean payments of salary arrears owe the worker from a period spanning from twelve to thirty-six months. Astonish as it may be of having to wait for a period of two or three years of active service delivery before getting “back” paid, it is perfidious shenanigan for such a rightfully due salary of an employee to be christened “legacy arrears” because it is in default for about seven years.
The measly monthly accumulated income to reward the poor teacher of his or invaluable services to the nation has now become a cenotaph called “legacy arrears” celebrated to remind the teacher of pain and his worthlessness.
What is this monstrous thing called legacy arrears?
In November 2013 the then minister of finance, Seth Terkper wrote an edict with the caption; “backdating of appointments, promotions and reactivation dates” for circulation. In the said edict, he noted with grave concerns about the issue of backdating documents in the payroll system which was distressing the national budget.
He consequently directed a new pay policy which became known as the three months pay policy. With the new pay policy, the government was to pay three months of any form of salary arrears owe any civil service employee irrespective of the number of months the employee may have worked for.
The worker was to subsequently justify the payments of the forfeited months through regularisation of documents to prove his or her appointment date.
By this directive, if a teacher was employed in a year or two ago without any monthly salary for that period, he or she was to be paid only three months if he or she was to be paid at all after the long years of waiting, borrowing and “starving”. The forfeited months were to be justified before payments could be effected.
In the said edict written by Mr. Terkper, the reasons assigned for the directive was to check for backdating of teachers’ appointment and promotions which used to be a common practice in the Ghana education service. From the face of it, that was a smart move by the ministry of finance at the time to check the canker of backdating appointments and promotions which became a drain to the nation’s treasury.
However, someone, perhaps, our teacher unions or the Ghana education service should have drawn the finance ministry’s attention to the fact that trained teachers from the government colleges of education couldn’t have been part of such directive because there can NEVER be anything like backdating of train teacher’s appointment.
For a trained teacher to be formally integrated into the government payroll, he or she must have a registered number which is proof of a successful pass in all exams written at the college of education. The registered number is an eight-digit code with the last four digits bearing the year of completion from college. So if my registered number were to be 44252013, then it meant that I completed college of education and passed all my required exam in 2013. With this unique code, any attempt to backdate a trained teacher’s appointment will not be successful since such appointment date will not congruent with the registered number on the certificate.
This important information was overlooked and trained teachers were botched into the three months pay directive. After seven years of persistent frustration and despair, some of us are yet to receive our legacy arrears after going through every procedure needed to claim what is rightfully due us.
THE THOUGHT-PROVOKING PART 2 : The Monstrous Legacy Arrears and Teachers Hardship, Frustration and Regrets
Source: Iddrisu Fuseini