PERSONALITY PROFILE. CoEWJ Interview with Mr. Thomas T. Musah, GNAT General Secretary

One-on-One with Mr. Thomas T. Musah

GNAT General Secretary

Old Student, St. John Bosco College of Education

CoEWJ: Welcome to the CoEWJ Personality Profile.

MR. MUSAH: Thank you, it is a pleasure to be with you.

CoEWJ: Briefly tell us about your life growing up as young Musah.

MR. MUSAH: I was born at Police Depo in Accra, specifically Tesano to the late R. S. M. Musah and the late Adocteley Musah all from the Builsa District in the Upper East Region. My father went on retirement that same year I was born so we moved to Abeka, also in Accra. I come from a family of 12. My dad had four children with my mother, i.e. three girls and myself. My father had three wives in total and had 12 children. Unfortunately, three of the 12 children have passed on. Growing up in a polygamous family and also in a community where the only thing people did was to trade, I use to assist my mother sell porridge at the time. I helped her to bake bread and also sell usually in the morning before going to school. When I completed my elementary school in 1982, my brother was then attending a technical school hence I also went to the National Technical Engineering College near Abossey Okai. I completed in 1986 thereabout. After that, I had to do the city and guilds of landing institute, Part 1. I went to the School of Mines on part time basis to do that program. I proceeded to do my National Service in 1989 at a primary school called 28th February Road Primary School.

CoEWJ: What would you say were your aspirations as a child?

MR. MUSAH: In fact, I will always give glory to God for my life. My life has been a challenging one. I am saying this because my mother had a mental illness in 1982, just around the time I finished elementary school. Since I am the only boy, I had to stay with her for a long time. I recalled dropping out of school in 1986 to continue later. Somewhere in the year 2000, my Mum had cervical cancer in addition to her illness. Even in my marriage, we decided to have all our children within ten years after marriage. Unfortunately, whenever my wife took seed, she will be bitten by a dog after which she will have a miscarriage. This continued for eight years. She finally gave birth in the 9th year. When she took seed the next time, she was approached by a woman who told her about a certain dog that has been sleeping under her car whenever she packed it. She told her that the dog was no ordinary dog since the plan has been to kill her but she (the woman) is telling her because my wife has been good to her. We took to prayer until the dog stopped coming and life went on.  

 All I am trying to say is that, situations in life did not give me the right mind to make such decisions of life. Therefore, I turned just the way God wanted me to be.

CoEWJ: How did you meet your wife?

MR. MUSAH: Well, we attend the same church so I met her at Church. I was the ‘yo-yo’ type and I needed someone who was the opposite of me. I realized these qualities in my wife and I told her about my intentions and luckily for me, we got on.

CoEWJ: Why decide to go to the Technical School and not any other field?

MR. MUSAH: At this point, I was not really sure of what I wanted to do in the future. In the course of my National Service, I met a lady at Accra Metro Education office. She saw me and beckoned me to come, she asked for my name and when I mentioned it, she said that was her husband’s name. We kept in touch and one day she wanted to know my plans for the future. I told her how confused I was regarding my future since I really did not know what to do. I wanted to continue with the engineering profession but I was always reminded that I was a “fitter”. I even went to places like Japan Motors but the response was always negative. The woman I met later told me to become a teacher. She advised that I buy the training college forms and apply. I told her that because of my technical background, I did not do courses like Mathematics and English language, hence, I could not go to the training college. She still insisted and after several attempts, I never got in. I told her and she urged me to register and write the O level exams. In selecting the Science option, she advised that I select Health Science, but I wanted to select Physics since I did a bit of that in the Technical School. She also suggested I add Bible Knowledge and Economics to my subject choices. I therefore went to CIBUSCO  to start all over. By the grace of God, I wrote my ‘O’ level and passed successfully. I told the woman and she was very excited for me. She quickly asked me to apply to the training college which I did and gained admission to St. John Bosco Teacher Training College. She then urged me to continue and finish my “A” Level at once, I passed all the subjects. I was very excited myself. I left college and came to the University. I was offered History, Political Science and Religion at University of Ghana, Legon. I always had the desire to return to College, which I did eventually in the first year. When I got back to College, my colleagues had already finished their second Teaching Practice. I went to plead with Management of my College and I was attached to the Demonstration School and completed in 1997. I was posted to a place in Accra called Papase where I taught until 2005. I joined GNAT in 2006. I later became the Head of the School and later the Circuit Chairman of the Head Teachers’ Association.

CoEWJ:  Tell us about your days in St. John Bosco College.

MR. MUSAH: I was called ‘pastor’ back in the Training College because I was always spreading the gospel. I was also one of the guys you needed whenever you wanted some tough questions directed at the Principal. I remember I was always told that I was going to fail my exams because of the way I spoke my mind. During the second year, I became the Assistant House Prefect of Lavigerie House. In the final year, I became the Assistant Dispensary Prefect. Because the College was a Catholic school, almost all the top positions were given to practicing Catholics and the remaining left for the rest to struggle over. I was also involved in the house level athletic competitions and sometimes played soccer for my house. All in all, I would say I had quiet an interesting time in College.

CoEWJ: Were you involved in any form of relationship back in College?

MR. MUSAH: No, I was not. Because I had not found exactly what to do in the future, I was not ready to add someone else’s burden to mine. Therefore, I promised myself not to get involved with any one.

CoEWJ: What would you say was your favorite food from the dining hall in College?

MR. MUSAH: That is a tough one but I would go for the rice and beans.

CoEWJ: Why do you have a Muslim name even though you are a Christian?

MR. MUSAH: The name Tanko is given to male born among females. When I converted to Christianity in 1984, the Pastor who baptized me asked if I wanted to take a Christian name and I said yes, hence the name Thomas.

CoEWJ: Tell us about your career life, how has the journey been after completing Training College?

MR. MUSAH: In the year 1997, I told myself that I needed to go back to the University, so I applied. I got admission to the University of Ghana. I was teaching and schooling simultaneously since I was in the Greater Accra Region. The challenge was that it was difficult going to lectures because I had to go to work and close around 2pm. I usually collect notes from colleagues to photocopy. I recall when I came back to the University, I was offered Political Science, Law and History. Because of my schedules, it affected me greatly in the Law Faculty. I was once summoned and asked why I have been missing lectures in the morning. I told them that I had to go to work to gather resources to organize myself. They advised me not to stress myself and said I could equally do the Law at the second degree Level, taking into consideration the cost involved. They told me to switch to Political Science and History in Level 300 so that I could do the Law proper at Makola. I did as they advised and dropped the Law. When I completed the University, I wanted to travel outside the country. Someone offered to help and I paid some money, before I could say Jack, the person run away with my money. I was determined to leave the country because I felt strongly that I could not make it in Ghana.

Then I had a dream that I had to stay in the teaching profession. This was something that was shown to me in a dream that I felt so real. I decided that even if I was meant to stay in Ghana, I would divert to Journalism or something else. In the year 2006, I joined the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT). Interestingly, I was only contacted to come for interview a day before the interview. Fortunately, I passed and my first station was at Cape Coast. Whiles there, I was able to do my Masters in Educational Administration between 2006 and 2007. I was officially moved from Cape Coast to Accra in 2011 but between 2008 and 2011, I did my Masters in Human Rights at the University of Education, Winneba. I also did my EMBA Human Resource Option at the University of Ghana Business School between 2012 – 2014. I also obtained a post graduate Certificate in Labor Policy at the University of Cape Coast.  I am currently a member of the Human Resource Management Institute. Finally, in December 2019, I became the GNAT General Secretary.

CoEWJ: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment in life so far?

MR. MUSAH: Personally, that would be the ability to keep focus on the dream that God gave me that I would one day stand before nations. For me, this is something I cannot take for granted. God is great.

CoEWJ: Any regrets in life?

MR. MUSAH: Yes, I have some regrets. The greatest amongst them is that I did not marry early. I married late because I gave myself to academics and all those things.

CoEWJ: Tell us about the journey to becoming the GNAT General Secretary?

MR. MUSAH: Before that time, I had series of revelations but I never bothered to apply when the first advert came in the dailies. When the second advert was published again in the dailies, I told myself that I would apply upon a sober reflection. I applied and the rest is history now. When the results came out, it was challenged and they needed to verify it at GIMPA. A committee was set up to investigate the outcome of the process, where my CV and all other certificates were inspected at GIMPA. The committee presented the findings to the National Council and I was handed the nod. God is great.   

CoEWJ: Did it come to you as a surprise?

MR. MUSAH: It was a little bit of both. I am saying this because I did not apply during the first advert. The other contestants were equally competent. But when I applied eventually, I prepared very well and left the rest to God.

CoEWJ: What was the relationship between you and your Former Boss, Mr. David Ofori Acheampong?

MR. MUSAH: It was very good. We had an excellent and cordial relationship. I still have great respect for him. Before my appointment as the General Secretary, there was a speculation that he was going to control me. But the truth is that, when people accuse you of something, there are two things involved; Your behavior either confirms that they are right or it confirms that they are wrong.  

CoEWJ: You have been in office for close to 5 months now, how would you describe the experience so far?

MR. MUSAH: Looking at the current state of affairs, you need to be on top of your game. For instance, in meetings at the seat of government; Jubilee House, you do not get to speak for more than five minutes. This means that within a period of three minutes, you should be able to get your point across. But thank God, we have been able to articulate the major concerns of teachers to higher authorities. With the support from my fellow officers, we have been a very formidable team and we keep gathering skills along the way. I would not say everything is rosy but we are on course.

CoEWJ: Currently, what is GNAT working on?

MR. MUSAH: The association shall be 90 years in 2021 and our focus is currently on our members. We are looking forward to bridging the gap and creating that bond between members and the leadership. We also want to focus on the issues of infrastructure. Almost all our district offices operate from rented offices. We are hoping that in the next decade, where GNAT would be 100 years old, each district should have a modern and functioning Secretariat. Also at the National level, we hope to be a force to reckon with on issues of policies and others to the benefit of our members.

CoEWJ: Tell us why the young trainee teacher out there should be worried about the Education Bill?

MR. MUSAH: They need to be worried due to these reasons – First, when you look at Section 36 of the Bill, it says that teachers employed in basic schools are on the coming into force of this act transferred to the Local Government Service. What it simply means is that, all the Districts where the teachers are working currently, from the moment this Bill comes into force, you are transferred to the District Assembly. It further states that, the Conditions of Service of the Staff of the Education Service would also be transferred. It means that, not only is the teacher being transferred but also his Conditions of Service will also be transferred to the District Assembly. Meaning the issues of transfer, termination and other issues would be transferred to the District Assembly. When you move to Section 31, it also says that the Head of the Local Government Service in consultation with the Education Service shall appoint the District Officer (the District Director). It goes on to say in Section 32 that the District Officer in – charge of the Education Unit at the Department of Education, Youth and Sports on behalf of the Head of Local Government Service and acting on recommendation of the Head of the District Education Unit, is responsible for the appointment, promotion, discipline and dismissal of the Head teachers and Staff of basic schools in the District. The danger there is that, as a teacher, your appointment can be terminated anytime at that District level by the District Director. Aside that, under the Conditions of Service, there is the Scheme of Service, the Code of Professional Conduct and the Condition of Service itself. Imagine each district having their own version of Conditions of Service and their own agreements that they will be dealing with. Can you imagine a District Chief Executive, who is a politician going to appoint a District Officer (District Director); Who do you think will be appointed? I can tell you that it is certainly going to be a party member. We are equally opposing some of the terms of the Bill at the Regional level. The Bill states under article 195 that, the President shall appoint some Officers at the Regional level. We all know that, the moment the President appoints a Regional Minister, the Minister together with the Regional Coordinating Council will automatically do the rest of the appointments since the President does not have time to be appointing Officers at the Regional level. We are saying that, all these things, if allowed to stand, shall lead to the politicization of the Ghana Education Service. Hence, the collapse of the teaching profession. We are saying No! this also means that, once posted as a newly trained teacher to a district, you are forever bound to that district and can never seek for transfer. You can only do that when you tender a resignation letter. These and many more are the reasons why we are saying NO to the Bill.

CoEWJ: What is life like for you away from the office?

MR. MUSAH:  I normally engage more in the things of God. I spend my time doing things like Bible reading and any other activity pertaining to the work of God.

CoEWJ: What is your favorite food?

MR. MUSAH: I enjoy Tuozaafi and leaves stew called ‘Suure’.

CoEWJ: Do you have any interest in sports?

MR. MUSAH: I used to play football until I became born-again. Whenever we played, the guys would say how can a believer be that wicked. I was playing right full back and you know the saying, when you miss the ball, do not miss the man.

CoEWJ: What is your view on the current state of Education in Ghana. What are we doing right, what are we doing wrong and what is the way forward?

MR. MUSAH: We need to be patient with education as a country. Firstly, the commitment of the President and the declarations of his intentions are all good. But, we need to be mindful of the way we get things done. We are doing the right things at the wrong time. Under Article 25 of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana, we have all agreed that we will pursue compulsory Free Basic Education. But when you read the National Development Planning Commission report (Citizens Assessment on Capitation Grant, 2014), it tells you that the basic challenge we have is that capitation grants are not being paid on time, due to this education is suffering. Also, we are rushing through too many policies at a time. Within four years, too many things have been done, causing a choke in the education system. I strongly believe the timing is wrong. We started asking for the Education Bill document since 2017, in 2019 this document went to parliament without our knowledge. There are numerous challenges but we will do our best and hope the good Lord helps us. Because at the end of the day, we have only one Ghana, our Ghana.

CoEWJ: Do you think the current crop of student leaders are doing well for their constituents?

MR. MUSAH: It is going to be very difficult to use one measurement to judge everybody. Every generation will come out with its own style of leadership. When you look at the current crop of student leaders, you realize that politicians are now trying to influence them. The moment they realize that you are dynamic, they try to poach you. When you look at the relatively young politicians we have now, almost all of them were one-time student leaders. Therefore, student leaders now feel that once they are in such position, they must also do whatever they can so that the moment they leave, they can get the chance to be appointed to fill some position. Due to this orientation, it is affecting how we behave within the student politics environment. I think this is something we must be mindful of. Aside all of these, I can say it is all well and good. We need to pray as well for the current generation. The issue of mentorship is one thing the current generation must be mindful of. When you read the book titled “From third world to first world country” it tells you all the reasons why Ghana is how it is today. And until we get it corrected, we have a very long way to go.

CoEWJ: What are your comments on the implementation of the Ghana Teacher Licensure Examinations and the mandatory National Service for newly trained teachers?

MR. MUSAH: These are issues that are ongoing and usually, I would rather take my time to study the system before commenting. That notwithstanding, these are issues that we spoke about sometime pass. The National Service for instance was a surprise that was thrown to us. Teachers normally do their National Service when they go to the University and wherever you were posted to after that, was regarded as the National Service. But this time they said it should be the other way round. Regarding the licensing, in principle, it is good to license a teacher. Because that is what is done across the globe. But we also need to make sure that the processes and the necessary protocols are put in place before we set the ball rolling.

CoEWJ: Briefly tell us about your expectations regarding your article calling for one-year top up for teachers with Diploma in Basic Education. Further

MR. MUSAH: We have ever been where we are now before. Once upon a time, teachers with Cert ‘A’ had a problem when their juniors started doing the Diploma. And instead of helping those with Cert ‘A’ get their Diploma, we delayed until they became juniors to those who were doing the Diploma. This time, we are saying that, we need to avoid that kind of situation again from arising. Therefore, while some people are now studying to gain degrees, let the diploma holders start doing the one-year top up. A curriculum should be designed to allow for the one-year top up leading to the award of a degree. So that by the time their juniors come out, they will not be disadvantaged.  We need to ensure equity and fairness. I am hoping and believing that GNAT and TTAG together, will push this issue to its fruition.

CoEWJ: Where do you see yourself in the next decade?

MR. MUSAH: hahahahaha…. Let us leave that in the hands of God. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

CoEWJ: Do you have any role model?

MR. MUSAH: Yes, I do. That would be Apostle J. F. K. Mensah. I have worked with him since the nineties. He has been there for me at all times of my life. God bless him.

CoEWJ: How far will you go to fight for the interest of your members?

MR. MUSAH: There is no limit. There is nothing more important for a man than to have a course to live for.

CoEWJ: Do you have any interest in national politics?

MR. MUSAH: No, I do not.

CoEWJ: Your final words to our cherished readers and members of GNAT.

MR. MUSAH: I want to thank my members for the support and patience so far. We are where we are now because of togetherness. To you readers, I want to urge you all to remain focus in life and steadfast in serving God. Kudos to everyone at the Colleges of Education Weekly Journal, you guys have made College more interesting to the outside world than ever before. Keep it up!

CoEWJ: Thank you very much for the interaction, we are most grateful. 

MR. MUSAH: Thank you for the opportunity as well, I am humbled.

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