Education International
Education International

GNAT: Invest in people to achieve EFA

published 13 January 2010 updated 13 January 2010

“We provide a clear vision for education and society, powerful arguments for investing in people, a capacity to mobilize globally, regionally, nationally and locally, and a strategy of proposition for the well-being of our communities and nations,” said EI's President Susan Hopgood at the opening of the 50th national conference of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT).

Hopgood assured the 750 delegates assembled in Accra from 5-7 January that the international teachers’ community fully supports the struggle of the Ghanaian teachers for “increasing investments in people to achieve quality education by 2015”, which was the conference’s main theme.

The President of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills, who officially opened the conference on 5 January, stated that his governments was determined to achieve quality primary education for all Ghanaian children by 2015. This was applauded by outgoing GNAT President Joseph Kwaku Adjei in his remarks to the conference. While he recognized that Ghana is making serious efforts to reach its EFA targets, he also noted that in 2009 some 800,000 children were still not attending classes, while the country is facing serious problems in upholding quality standards. The three day conference addressed these and other challenges, including the employment of unqualified teachers who represent a growing proportion of the Ghanaian teaching profession.

EI Secretary General Fred van Leeuwen in his address to the conference called for a new global architecture to help structure and mobilize international support for education, to scale up that mobilization, and to foster creative approaches to delivering resources more effectively. Van Leeuwen said that currently a substantial part of EFA funding is coordinated by the Fast Track Initiative with the World Bank as the agency for delivery of FTI finances. “But the World Bank systems are cumbersome and complicated. We should consider alternative channels, including non-governmental and civil society organisations, other bilateral donors, UN agencies and partnerships with the private sector in situations where this makes more sense than going through the World Bank.” National and local governments should be able to choose whatever agency is best placed to deliver needed finances effectively, according to Van Leeuwen. “There must be a major rethink of what is required to get the job done. That job is in the first place the achievement of the Millenium Development Goal of basic Education for All by the year 2015.”

One of the main obstacles to achieving quality education of all children are serious teachers shortages all over the African continent. Van Leeuwen emphasised the importance of the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers. “Recruiting unqualified people, placing them in front of students in classrooms with totally inadequate preparation and virtually non-existent prospects for professional development, is short-changing future generations,” he said. “The great risk for much of Africa today is to perpetuate the yawning gap of inequity in education into the future. The nations of Africa must be given the chance to recruit and prepare quality teachers for quality education. That is one of the key issues we are addressing with the World Bank and other agencies.”

Van Leeuwen wants UNESCO and the World Bank to start assessing existing capacities in teacher education institutions and the likely supply of qualified teachers to 2015 and beyond. “We should look at recruitment beyond the boundaries of states in federal countries, or among countries in the same sub-region. Teacher education facilities could be developed on a sub-regional basis in Africa, for example, along the models of the Caribbean and the Pacific.”