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PERSONALITY PROFILE. CoEWJ Interview with Dr. Christian Addai-Poku, Acting Executive Secretary, National Teaching Council. Old Student, Atebubu College of Education

CoEWJ: Good morning and welcome to the Colleges of Education Weekly Journal personality profile interaction.

Dr. Addai-Poku: Good morning thank you for the opportunity.

CoEWJ: Kindly tell us about your life growing up as young Christian.

Dr. Addai-Poku: Young Chritian was born and raised at Ashanti Boanim where I started schooling. My father was a civil servant and my mother barely completed her basic education but a very hardworking trader. One good thing was that my father was interested in education and did not compromise when it came to his children’s education. Thus,I had that privilege of being supported by my parents. I passed the Common Entrance Exams in form 3 at the Boanim L/A Middle School. From there I proceeded to Okomfo Anokye Secondary School at Wiamoase also in the Ashanti Region where I completed my O’ Level. I then moved to Atebubu Training College (now College of Education) and completed in 1994. While in College, I really wanted to go to the University and get a degree so I started reading A’ Level books to help me prepare. I was posted to a very remote village when I came out of College. One had to wake up around 1:00am and walk for about 4 kilometers to  the next village where  one can get a vehicle to travel to Kumasi. This did not deter me at all. I got my A’ Level books and studied in the village with my lamp. Three years after, I had my passes to enable me go to the University.

CoEWJ: Would you describe your parents as being strict?

Dr. Addai-Poku: My mother is very strict, no doubt. My Dad  was also strict but a bit diplomatic. Perhaps due to the fact that he had some sort of formal education,  his appreciation of discipline and reinforcement was tactically different from that of my mum. Of course the application of their different methods contributed greatly to who I am now.  They collectively ensured that all my siblings, but one, had up to the secondary education, at least.

CoEWJ: What were your aspirations as a child?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I wonder if I had any aspirations. But when I was in Secondary School, they used to call me Headmaster. One English teacher actually started calling me and it almost stuck. I would say that virtually, I did not have any aspirations until I entered College and realized that I wanted to be a great  teacher.

CoEWJ: What motivated you to apply to the Training College, specifically Atebubu?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I would say it was by chance or accident. This is because at the time, when I completed Secondary School, our results were withheld. When it was released, sixth form had finished with their admissions. So that was one major issue that led me to enter the College. As for the reason why I went to Atebubu, I would say that’s where I got admitted  and I was very happy because my elder brother was also there as a student so I felt very comfortable there.

CoEWJ: Tell us about your school days from the basic level till date.

Dr. Addai-Poku: Well, I started at Boanim RC Primary School where I was among the  the best in my class at the time. I later went to Middle school, passed and went to Okomfo Anokye Secondary School in Kumasi. Over there, I had a difficulty in adjusting to the terrain during my first year. Subsequently, I improved and later won a Government Scholarship that supported me to smoothly complete my secondary education. This really helped me because my father had been redeployed at the time. I went to the Training College where I was a bit troublesome. I started Secondary School at the age of 14, entered college at the age of 19. After Training College, I taught for close to four years and went to the University of Cape Coast to study Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) Arts, in 1998 and completed in 2001. After that I came back to the same district (Atwima Nwabiagya) I was but this time to  Nkawie Secondary Technical School where I taught until  2005. I enrolled for  a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Educational Administration degree at the University of Cape Coast. I graduated in 2009. My graduation delayed because I was involved in NAGRAT activities and also a classroom teacher at the time. After the expiry of my study in 2007 I came back to the same Nkawie Secondary Technical School, where I continued teaching and working as a NAGRAT official. Quite recently, I obtained my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Leadership from the University of Education, Winneba.

CoEWJ: If your name was mentioned in College, what would you be remembered for?

Dr. Addai-Poku: People will think that I was a bit troublesome. I used to disturb my Principal (Mr. Okae ) a lot with protestations about food, delay in payment of allowances, among others. We were not violent anyway. The Principal at the time was very accommodating and really managed our excesses very well. Thank God we managed to sail through successfully.

CoEWJ: Where were you posted to do your teaching practice?

Dr. Addai-Poku: During my time we did not have the in-in-out format. We had on campus and off campus teaching practice. We went to schools in the Atebubu township.

CoEWJ: What was your favorite food from the dining hall?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Rice balls on Sundays and that was a never miss lunch for almost all students. Virtually everyday, we use to eat yam and we used to complain. On the contrary when I was in the Secondary School, yam was very scarce that eating it once a week was an achievement. Such is life.

CoEWJ: Did you occupy any leadership position in College?

Dr. Addai-Poku: No, I did not. I applied to contest  the dining hall prefectship but I was disqualified at the vetting, till date I do not know why. Probably because too young or because I was a bit noisy.

CoEWJ: Kindly share with us your journey through NAGRAT to the point of becoming the National President.

Dr. Addai-Poku: When it comes to this journey I speak with emotions because it was a miracle. When I was posted to Nkawie Senior High Technical School, I went there as a young teacher and the school was also practically new. The English Language teacher I met there offered Business and Secretarial Studies at the University but was made to teach  English Language. The then Headmaster had contracted someone from Opoku Ware Senior High School who  occasionally came to support the other teacher. When I got there I promised myself that I would put an end to that practice. I took the mantle and supported the lady  teaching the  final year students. The students did very well. From there, the confidence in me grew. When I got there,  the school did not have a school magazine. Within two years, I was able to help establish one. We did three Editions before I left for further studies. Within two years, I became the the Head of the English Department and a Housemaster in the school.

It was during this time that I applied to be a member of NAGRAT. This was because I had heard of them and how they fought for teachers and so on. When I applied, I was not registered. I was paying dues to GNAT but I still saw myself as a NAGRAT member. One time, an NGO came to our school to donate books to the students. There was a  little ceremony and I was the MC. In the course of  the ceremony, I had in information that NAGRAT officials from Accra were coming to Kumasi to meet their members. I informed a  colleague that I wished to  go with them. Although the Headmaster was a GNAT member, he gave out a bus to carry the teachers to the meeting. My colleague opted to take over the MC duties so I could go with the others. Can you imagine an MC abandoning his work in the middle of a program? On our way, we got stuck in traffic and at a point we thought we would be too late for the meeting. We contemplated returning but a colleague alighted and walked to the venue and called to inform us that the meeting was still in progress and that we could meet it. I went there purposely to just attend the meeting. During the meeting, I got up and spoke on an issue and I didn’t  know if that was what made me popular at the time or not. In the course of the meeting it was announced that the position of the Regional Chairman was vacant and there was supposed to be an election. They started  nominating people until someone stood up and mentioned my name. People protested because I was not even a certified member of NAGRAT because my name was not  on their dues paying list. The then President, Mr Kwami Alorvi, argued that I applied to be a member and it was their duty to take my dues and it was not my doing. Besides, I was the Union’s Secretary in my school. The argument continued for about 30 minutes. Eventually, they agreed for me to contest.We were given a few minutes to address the audience. I think I impressed them so at the end of the polls I came out victorious. I was elected as the Ashanti Regional Chairman of NAGRAT. I did not even know the constitution of the union. I do not think this can ever happen again in the history of the union , never. It happened also because the Association was still developing at the time. After the meeting I started talking to people who were experienced and I asked a lot of questions.

I took up the challenge and I can happily say that within six months of assuming office, we had overtaken three  other regions that were ahead of us in terms of membership. Everybody was impressed. My Headmaster was very supportive and continued to give us the school bus whenever we needed it. All this was between  the year 2005 and 2006. I served for less than two years. The moment I took over, I worked and supported the administration at the time and the entire national administration believed that I could do the job. As fate will have it, we unfortunately, lost the then National Vice President a few months to elections. They started looking for replacement and there was quite a number of people who could fill the gap. The then President, Mr Alorvi and then Financial Secretary, came to me at the University of Cape Coast and encouraged me to contest the Vice Presidency. I was young but had what it takes to be a worthy Vice President. Indeed  I did quite a lot during my time as the Regional Chairman and that made people have much confidence in me. We went for the congress and I was elected  unopposed. I won and served for three years under Mr. Alorvi as the National Vice President and I served him and the enrire association very well. Fast forward, it became very obvious that the next best person to serve as President would be me taking into consideration my experience and hard work. I contested and by God’s grace I became the National NAGRAT President for two terms.

CoEWJ: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment as NAGRAT President?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I think it is for making teachers belive in themselves that they can always do it and also raising the status of the teacher through the NAGRAT auto scheme which did not just help teachers acquire cars but it also gave them the confidence that yes, they can also own vehicles if they wanted to. This made me believe that we do not always have to accept the inferior position of we not being paid well or this or that. Generally, we have done a lot which we are very thankful for. Of course I fought for teachers on many issues including placement on the Single Spine Salary Structure, The Teacher Retention Premuim and the new Pensions Reforms as well as its implementation. Fought, negotiated and lobbied for teachers.

CoEWJ: How did you feel leaving office while NAGRAT moved into such a magnificent edifice (Headquarters)?

Mr. Addai-Poku: Actually, I put up that building during my time as NAGRAT President. I named it the NAGRAT Lyceum because NAGRAT stands for excellence and a Lyceum is a historical meeting place in Greek City states where philosophers, rulers and sports personalities  met to discuss issues of importance. It is also one of the biggest achievements of my days in NAGRAT.

CoEWJ: Do you miss your days as NAGRAT Boss?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Well, it is a great position.  In that position you can write  to the President of Ghana and he will  to invite you to the Jubilee House for discussion but it also comes with a lot of pressure. This is because it is a position where if you do not fight the status quo, people think that you are not working. People prefer to see you fight authority and go on strikes rather than negotiating and getting better results. I think we need to let people know that there are always other ways of solving issues. The world is moving away from antagonistic and radical unionism and towards what we call cooperative unionism.

CoEWJ: How did you blend the pressure of work and family life?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I would say my wife has been very supportive of my work and has been with me through it all. But it has not been entirely rosy.

CoEWJ: What new thing will you do if you were the NAGRAT President today?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I think leaving the union and coming to the other side, I realized that changing of mindset of people is very important. Therefore, I think that teacher unions need to reorient  members on best union practices. Union leaders do a lot of behind the scenes to resolve issues but members do not appreciate that at all if they do not embark on strike. It does not matter how much you achieve for members, if you do not embark on strikes and demonstrations members consider you as having been bought by authourities. This is the kind of mindset leadership must work to change. That is what I would chanel more resources into if I were a union leader today.

CoEWJ: At what point did you develop the love for education?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I admired one teacher back in primary five and I felt I could become a teacher someday but was not sure of who I would be in future. But it actually dawned on me  when I entered the Training College.

CoEWJ: As a form of advice, were you involved in any relationship with the opposite sex during your school days?

Dr. Addai-Poku : No, I was not. In the Secondary School I was not involved in boy friend and girl friend stuff . I really focused on my studies. The situation changed at the tail end of my days in College when I was matured enough. I maried in my early thirties.

CoEWJ: Any regrets on how life has unfolded for you?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I will say that there is a purpose for whatever God does. I also think I have been one of the luckiest people in the world. All I can say is that God has been good to me.

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

Dr. Addai-Poku: Having a very united and supportive family.

CoEWJ: Tell us about the journey to becoming the NTC boss.

Dr. Addai-Poku My appointment, I believe, was a decision made by the the Minister for Education together with the teacher unions. The Minister believes that as a teacher regulatory body mandate to instill professionalism in teaching, the NTC has to be accepted and  owned by teachers. To do that it has to be led by teachers. Based on that thinking, the Ministry and the Unions agreed that I should be given that responsibility. All this was also based on my experience in the field.

CoEWJ: How has the experience at NTC been so far?

Dr. Addai-Poku: It has been tough, coming from the other side of the table. I thank God that my colleagues in the unions know and trust that I will do nothing to jeopardize the interest of teachers. Currently, things are smooth with the help and cooperation of Staff and the Governing Board of NTC, the Minister for Education and the Teacher Unions.

CoEWJ: What would you say has been your biggest challenge so far?

Dr. Addai-Poku: That will be the licensing of teachers. That sets the tone for  teacher professionalization. If we are able to establish our our systems well, Ghanaian teachers will be highly recognised nationally and  globally.  For instance, the only thing we need if a teacher travels outside the country to teach is for the  employer to key in the the teacher’s NTC pin and every single detail of the teacher’s professional progress is shown. Unfortunately, the politicization of the work of NTC is becoming a major source of worry to us  It is a big challenge for us but it is surmountable.

CoEWJ: What is the future of NTC?

Dr. Addai-Poku: The future is as bright as it can be. NTC is one of the few agencies that is expected to make it big. We have over 400,000 teachers that we are going to regulate and make sure that they develop professionally. If we are able to do this well,  we will be able to change the face of teaching. This will also mean that the quality of teaching will dramatically improve.

CoEWJ: We have heard of the Teacher Professional Development Allowance, when is it finally going to be paid to teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Well, I must put on record that I do not have the authority to say when it will be paid. However, from reliable sources, all things being equal, it will be paid by the end of October.

CoEWJ: Aside the Teacher Licensure Examination, what other policies or packages does NTC have for the Colleges of Education?

Dr. Addai-Poku: The first thing is that Colleges of Education are supposed to go by the new teacher training curriculum framework which is derived from the National Teachers Standards. Therefore, we at NTC are supposed to monitor the progress of teachers as they develop. That is why we are supposed to do indexing of every student the moment they  enter College. The content of what is to be taught in the Colleges should not be left with the National Accreditation Board alone.  It is also up to NTC to make sure that modules in the Colleges meet  requirements. As I said, we are a developing agency and some of these things are gradual but we will get there.

CoEWJ: Are we likely to get to a point in the future where the Licensure Examination will be canceled?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not believe that. It can be reformed in different ways but a total cancelation is what I do not think will happen and I pray it does not happen. Stakeholders have worked very hard to get to this stage of the Teacher Licensure and it will be unfortunate for it to be reversed. It is quite essential in the NTC’s quality assurance function.

CoEWJ: As NTC boss, how do you feel when the whole teacher licensing process is being politicized?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I feel sad. As a nation, we must be able to distinguish between things that are of value and things that are populist in their architeture. There are certain things that can win votes but are regrettable. So deep down, I pray whoever is in charge works on making it better and not reverse the gains made.

CoEWJ: Is the situation the same in other countries as well, where politicians interfere with the licensing of teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not know much about these other countries but I always take the words of  former President Barack Obama that, it is important to build strong institutions than strong personalities. Building strong institutions means that you allow the professionals to take the decisions and advise government rather than the government making promises and later give to the professionals to help excute  the promises. At least, the first and best example I can give is Nigeria. For them, even the in-service teachers also write the licensure exams.

CoEWJ: You have been the President of Education International for Africa from 2018 till now, tell us about your work there.

Dr. Addai-Poku: I have been with the Executive Board since 2011. I served the Region (Africa) until I was elected in 2018 to serve as the Regional President in Ivory Coast. I represent them at international fora and I chair meetings of the body. The headquarters is located in Ghana and so sometimes I pass by the office to take briefings and reports to help us work better.

CoEWJ: Briefly tell us about your days as a Headmaster and how that role has affected your personality.

Dr. Addai-Poku: I was first posted to Oppong Memorial Senior High school.  Initially, I was protesting because it was a relatively small school and having been  a President of NAGRAT, I  felt it was a bit below me. But I had an interesting experience when I got there and started working. I realized it was a different ballgame altogether. I spent just six months there but I lobbied to get a lot of projects running and also changed the mindset of people. Both teachers and students liked me so much. After six months, there was a vacancy at Asanteman Senior High School and the Regional Director said I was to fill that position. The day I informed stakeholders such as the  board, the PTA, old students, teachers and the students about my reposting, they were so sad and, they did everything they could to block the transfer. To the extent of sending letters to the Ministry of Education, the MP and the Chief of the area. The students and teachers went on a  peaceful demonstration. The good story continued  at Asanteman  and today when you go there, I am sure they will have good things to say about me. I may have my own weaknesses as a leader but I believe people liked the many innovations and quality leadership I brought to the school within my shot stay there.

CoEWJ: As a former union leader, the concern of newly trained teachers agitating against undertaking National Service, what is your view on that?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not believe they are  against it. However, the place to make their concerns known is parliament since that is where the existing law was made. Which requires any graduate to do a mandatory National Service. It is basically an issue of law and if we do not enforce it, we will be failing as a nation. We all know that Colleges of Education are now fully fledged tertiary institutions currently   affiliated to five major public universities.

CoEWJ : Few months ago, we heard in the news that preparations were underway to export Ghanaian teachers to neighouring African countries. How far with arrangements for that initiative?

Dr. Addai-Poku: The Minister for Education set up a small committee which I am a member working with the University of Cape Coast to work on that. We are still working on the modalities that will ensure that the programme becomes a success.

CoEWJ: If you are a union leader today, what will be your opinion on the Education Bill?

Dr. Addai-Poku: I do not have a position but I know that the unions and other stakeholders have raised some concerns which the Ministry of Education is looking into particularly on the decentralization aspect. These issues are resolvable and I know they will be ironed out.

CoEWJ: What do you do outside the office to relax?

Dr. Addai-Poku:  I like reading, I read a lot of novels and leadership books. I sometimes watch movies and I enjoy football. My favorite teams are Liverpool and Asante Kotoko.

CoEWJ: What food do you enjoy most?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Banku with okro stew does it. I am one of the few Asantes who do not enjoy fufu.

CoEWJ: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

Dr. Addai-Poku: God creates the path for men and I know He will do same for me. All I want to do is to excel at NTC and if there is another opportunity, I would go for it.

CoEWJ: Do you have any role model?

Dr. Addai-Poku: My class five teacher is my number one role model. Also  the late Thomas Bediako, the former GNAT Boss intrigues me a lot. He really mentored me so much, particularly, on pension issues and the geopolitics within Education International. I also got inspired by the way he brought me close even though I was a NAGRAT person and he was a GNAT person.

CoEWJ: With your current position, how far will you go to fight for the welfare of teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: As far as I can go to fight legitimately for teachers, I am ever ready to go. It is one of the reasons  I am here.

CoEWJ: The three major teacher unions in the past few years are seen together addressing concerns of teachers. Do you see this as a good thing for teachers?

Dr. Addai-Poku: Yes, it could not have been better. It is unity in diversity which did not start today. It started with myself and the then GNAT General Secretary Madam Irene Duncan Adanusa and we have built upon it over the years. We may belong to different Associations but the target we are fighting for is the same. So coming together to fight it is even the best way to go. It also helps the employer to bring all the unions to one table instead of meeting them separately.

CoEWJ: Your final words to our cherished readers.

Dr. Addai-Poku: I want to first commend you for the good job you and your team are doing. I pray that it grows in leaps and bounds. I also want to tell our able teachers that they should continue to cooperate with NTC to build our profession.  NTC is not an enemy of teachers but rather a part of teachers. It is to enhance our profession and give us both national and international recognition. I also want to assure trainee teachers that Licensure is not a punishment but rather to help raise their status to  flourish at what they do so that wherever they find themselves at any point in time they will know that they have really gone through the mill and they merit where they are. They should not antagonize the Licensure exams. Let us all work together to perfect it so that it will earn them the recognition they deserve.



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