PERSONALITY PROFILE. CoEWJ Interview with Mr. Akwasi Addae-Boahene, Chief Technical Advisor, T-TEL and Policy Advisor, Education Reform Secretariat, Ministry of Education.

CoEWJ: Good morning and welcome to the Colleges of Education Weekly Journal Personality Profile interaction.

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: Good morning and thank you for the opportunity.

CoEWJ: Let’s begin with how life was growing up as young Akwasi.

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I was born on October 15, 1961 by parents who were both farmers in small village called Monkra in the Krachi West District of the Oti Region. My father although not well educated, valued education so much that he took a lot of interest in my education and that of my siblings.

I started my primary education at the Monkra L A Primary school in 1966. When I got to Middle school, my teachers encouraged my father to allow me to take the Common Entrance Exams, which I passed on three years running and on each of the first two occasions, I was not able to go to Secondary School because of family challenges. My third attempt was in Middle School Form three, and this time round left the village to attend Apam Secondary School in 1975.

Unfortunately, my father took ill at the time I had to go to school so preparation for school was quite a challenge. I took interest in the science subjects because I wanted to be a medical doctor. I took my GCE Ordinary level examination in 1980 and left to Prempeh College the same year for Sixth Form, where I was persuaded by the Headmaster of Prempeh College to rather do an Arts programme. I finished my sixth form in 1982. And that year all sixth form leavers were expected to do National Service. I was posted to the National Service Secretariat to work directly with the Director of the National Service, Mr. Peter Kpordugbe.

CoEWJ: Did you have any plans to make it to the University at the time?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: Even though I had the necessary passes to go to University, I only applied for admission into the University after 1986 because of financial difficulties at the time. All this while I was working at the National Service Secretariat. I gained admission to the University of Ghana to study Economics, Psychology and Philosophy for my first degree. During my time at the University of Ghana, I became the JCR President of Akuafo Hall. Unfortunately, there were several interruptions in academic work due to student agitations and University close downs. In 1989, I got a government of Ghana scholarship to pursue my post graduate studies at the University of Havana, Cuba. I graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Policy in 1993 and returned to Ghana in July the same year.

CoEWJ: What was your first job after arriving in Ghana?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: On my arrival from Cuba, I got a job with the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) as a Project Officer on the Mole Project from 1993 to 1996. GNPC wanted to support the Ghana Wildlife Department and local communities to reduce the incidence of poaching and create sustainable livelihoods for communities surrounding the Mole Game Reserve.

CoEWJ: Would you say your parents were strict on you growing up?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: My father is someone who wanted education more than anything else for us. He was strict on his children and allowed us to do the things he thought was best. He was a great disciplinarian, hard working and honest. He told me two things that have actually shaped my life over the years. He said that, whenever you see money anywhere, remember that was in payment for someone else’s toil, sweat and hard work. It means that someone had worked hard and the money was the result and payment of that hard work. So anytime I want to make money, I should first think about work, I should understand that it is work that produces money. He added that if you follow money you won’t get it because the money is also following work, due to that you will neither get the money nor the work. Secondly, he always encouraged and advised me on how to support my family. He always said that in your house, you should be able to provide for every member of your family as much as you can. These two things have guided me in the way I conduct myself in almost all aspects of my life.

CoEWJ: Looking at your background, what were your aspirations as a child growing up?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: Growing up, my aspiration was to be become a medical doctor to make my parents proud. My father has always given us a certain level of motivation to always be the best. He challenged us to be the best wherever we found ourselves. Back in primary and secondary school, every child brought his report cards to him to check our positions. One after the other, you had to defend yourself on why you were where you were. And when you even placed 2nd, he would ask why you allowed someone’s child to be ahead of you. You would have to take responsibility for your actions always. In my case, I was the first male child of my mother so my father always reminded me that if I did not become successful, I was going to have challenges in the future when I grow up. This challenged me to get to the point that I am now.

CoEWJ: Your name has always been associated with T-TEL over the years. What motivated the formation of T-TEL?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I have had a particularly good career and experience in education. After my work with GNPC, I was recruited as the National Coordinator for a World Bank funded Schooling Improvement Fund Project in 1996. As young as I was at the time, it was particularly challenging because I did not have the kind of experience that I have now. I however was ambitious, hardworking, and ready to learn. I worked on that project for three years and when the projected ended, I was employed as the Associate Director of the Community School Alliances, a component of the Quality Improvement in Primary Schools (QUIPS) Project in May 1998. I worked on this project till December 2004. All these years of work gave me some accumulated experience, I was ready for anything, I would say. I later in 2005 became the Ghana Country Director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC). Through WUSC we successfully implemented several projects. One was the Ghana Education Decentralization project which sought to support the Ministry of Education to decentralize education management in Ghana. WUSC also implemented a Girl’s Education project in the three Northern Regions, the Bibiani – Bekwai Ahwiaso District Development project and several others.

After all these, I thought that it would be best if I did something for myself with all the experience I had gained over the years. So, in 2013, I resigned from WUSC and set up an NGO know as Associate Development for Partnership with a few friends and colleagues. We started working and got a few projects to manage. I was contacted by the Cambridge Education in the United Kingdom in November 2013, they suggested that they wanted to work with me on a yet to be designed teacher education project in Ghana. They asked me work with them to design the project and lead it once it was approved by DFID. This project is what we now know as T-TEL today. Right from day one, I have been around since 2013, during the planning stages of the project until December 2014 when the implementation of T-TEL started. That is how I became the first National Program Manager for T-TEL until October 2017. When the project expanded and we needed some high level political leadership and collaboration with the Ministry of Education in reforming the entire teacher education sector in Ghana, my role ended up being to work with the Ministry of Education and other agencies. My position then changed to Chief Technical Director leading the teacher education policy reform agenda. That is what I have been doing till today. In a nutshell, the idea, planning and other activities of T-TEL started way back in 2013. Today we have T-TEL to be one of the most successful national education reform initiatives in Ghana. It has had tremendous impact on a number of different areas in our education sector. The influence of T-TEL today is so much that I think all must appreciate the fact that it is a great project. The massive training for Principals and Tutors in the Colleges of Education, the transformation of Colleges to University Colleges, the existence of the National Teaching Standards, etc. All these are evidence of the great impact of T-TEL. I am personally proud and grateful for the support from the Minister for Education, the Ministry of Education, Principals, CETAG, CENTSAG, TTAG and all other relevant stakeholders who have worked hard to achieve these great things.

CoEWJ: What is your opinion on the transformation of T-TEL into a Ghanaian NGO?

Mr. ADDAE: For me, the level of success that T-TEL has achieved is such that we needed to consolidate that experience, we needed to make sure that the momentum that had been created as a result of the level of expertise that has been constituted and utilized for the benefit of the education sector. I believe that we could not have allowed that depth of experience to go waste. The only way we could do this was to convert it into an NGO, so that we can continue to use the level of expertise and the goodwill that that has been created as a result of the successes that have been achieved for the betterment of education in Ghana. Therefore, I am very proud that the momentum was not lost and the team that was put together is still available in this decision to convert it into an NGO.

CoEWJ: What are you most proud of working with T-TEL?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: The massive support from everyone that has been part of the process is something that I am immensely proud of. I would not be able to mention everything that makes me proud, but for me, the cooperation and hard work of my colleagues and everyone who worked on T-TEL is something I will forever cherish. To add to that, the creation of a National Teaching Standard, which is the first of its kind and the National Teacher Education Curriculum Framework are a few of the great accomplishments to be proud of. All these was as a result of the collective effort of every single stakeholder in education.

CoEWJ: Kindly tell us about your new role at the Ministry of Education.

Mr. ADDAE: Some of the things that T-TEL sought to do was to influence national policies on education. So that whatever it did was aligned with national policy. So I am more of a bridge between the work that T-TEL is doing and national policy. To facilitate the alignment of the work of T-TEL and national policies. That is how come I find myself working at the National Education Reform Secretariat, a unit set up by the Minister for Education to ensure coordination and alignment of all education reforms initiatives between T-TEL and government policies.

CoEWJ: What is your view on the implementation of the Teacher Licensing and the introduction of National Service for newly trained teachers?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I approach the teacher licensing from a positive perspective. I say this because, if we are making the effort to professionalize teaching, to make sure that we give teachers the highest level of competencies and highest regard, then we needed to take steps to make sure that we protect the profession. One way we could do this is to have in place a licensing and registration process to ensure that the people we license as teachers really reflect what we expect teachers to be. Just like every other profession in this country needs a license to operate, teachers should also be certified in such a manner to add value to the profession. This way we would know those who are professionals and those that are not professionals. Unfortunately, it is probably the way it has been explained or the way it has been understood is what is causing the problem. Teachers are expected to be dealing with the life of students, the future of this country and therefore we need professional teachers who are qualified and licensed and why we need to do what we are doing in teacher professionalization.

On the issue of National Service, it is a matter of law. The National Service Act (Act 426) requires that anyone who has completed tertiary education will be required to undergo a one-year mandatory National Service. The question is why should teachers be exempted? It is difficult to make that argument because the law does not make any room for such exemptions.

CoEWJ: Any comments on the Education Bill before parliament and the concerns raised mostly by the teacher unions and academia?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I am personally an advocate for decentralization of Education Management in Ghana. That was one project that I worked on around 2010. The operationalization is probably what people need to understand to bring to rest the worries and concerns of people. I do not see why anyone would be against decentralization of education in Ghana. This is because no one would like to be teaching in a village in the Upper East or somewhere in the Western Region yet, would have to basically refer everything he/she wants to do all the way to Accra, it does not make sense. It is actually frustrating and a waste of time and resources. Therefore, if we can set up a proper decentralized system which can really respond to the needs of those who work in the education sector, I think it would be the best.

When I worked on the Ghana Education Decentralization Project, 10 years ago, the worry has always been about the structure of the district assemblies, there is a concern that they might not prioritize education as done through the Ministry of Education. The other thing I would be worried about if I were a union member is that once education sector employees become workers of the district assemblies, it will make them local government staff. This means that, the members (teachers) may be obliged to become members of Civil and Local Government Staff Association, Ghana (CLOGSAG). This means their numbers as teacher unions will be depleted. This somehow may diminish the bargaining power of the Teacher unions. If I were the Unions, I would suggest to government to let us include a clause in the Bill that makes sure that teachers even though may be employed by the district assembly, should still belong to the unions that currently exist. That will satisfy the unions. So all in all, I strongly believe decentralization is the best way we should be delivering education in this country instead of the centralized system which obviously has a lot of inefficiencies.

CoEWJ: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far, as an individual?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I am proud that I have always been part of transforming education in this country. Because I can say that for the past 25 years, I have worked in the education sector and the work I have done with many people has helped to shape education to a higher level in Ghana. This is what I am proud of.

CoEWJ: Do you have any regrets for the way life has unfolded for you?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I do not have any regrets. I think that in life, every experience you go through, is meant to be a learning opportunity. I therefore take failure as an opportunity to learn. I do not look back to my failures and call them regrets but I rather look back to pick lessons from my past experiences.

CoEWJ: Having worked with student leaders across the country, do you think the current crop of leaders are doing well or you think they need to do better?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I was a student leader myself during my days in the University of Ghana. I was a JCR President. I know the enormous responsibilities of student leaders. What is important is for student leaders to appreciate the importance of dealing with the real issues affecting students welfare and education without being politically aligned. Even in my days, student leadership has somehow been infiltrated by politics, which should not have been the case. Student leaders should build a mentality that prepares them for the future. Unfortunately, today, as soon as you become a student leader, you tie yourself to a political party and that becomes dangerous and closes out opportunities for you to learn and to look at things objectively from the other side as well. This is very worrying, it is almost like every association you see on any campus is politically aligned.

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

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I would like to continue to contribute my quota towards the promotion of education in Ghana. I see us working in the next ten years to make the next generation of our beloved country responsible citizens. I would be happy to continue to provide my services and work with as many people as possible to help make education become the best if not in West Africa, then the entire African continent.

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

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I wonder if I can actually relax in these times. There is always something to be done. My family though, has been very supportive despite the fact that I do not get the chance to be with them as much as I would want. But they have been very understanding and supportive, and I appreciate them so much. I am basically always doing something. I do go to my village whenever I want to relax, I catch up with folks that I grew up with and also get to share my experiences with young people whom I come into contact with.

CoEWJ: Who is your role model?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I have a lot of role models. But the two outstanding ones would be Mr. Peter Kpordugbe and Mr Akrasi Sarpong. They were the two people who were very supportive of my early career. My father of course, would be the overall role model.

CoEWJ: Any interest or hobbies?

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: I love reading and also enjoy football. My favorite club is Liverpool.

CoEWJ: Do you have an English name?

Mr. ADDAE: On record, I do. My English name is Solomon, I got that name after I baptized as a Catholic. But my parents did not give me that name. So on all my records and certificates, passport, etc, I have Solomon added to my names.

CoEWJ: Your final words to our cherished readers.

Mr. ADDAE-BOAHENE: What I would like to share with everybody, especially those of us who work in the education fraternity is that we should be worried about the kind of education we are giving the children of this country. Because they are going to be the next generation of leaders. If the Ghanaian children we see today are going to be the adults who will manage the resources of this country when we the current adults retire, and they are going to be the ones whose taxes will be used to pay our pension. Therefore, the way we prepare them, will determine if they will be productive or unproductive. We should guide them to become inventors, creators and innovators who will secure the destiny of this country and by extention our pension. If we should prepare them to be unproductive, then the country will be poorer than what it is today. If this happens, what it means is that our retirement will not be what we expect or want it to be.

Therefore, if we want to be better off in the future, then we need to make sure that we contribute to making this country better through the kind of education we make available for our children today. This has always been my advice because for me education is the strongest bedrock of any society that wants to develop

CoEWJ: Thank you very much for the opportunity to interact with you. We are very grateful.

Mr. ADDAE: Thank you too. I am very honored as well.

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