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PERSONALITY PROFILE: CoEWJ interview with Rev. Sister Elizabeth Amoako-Arhen, Immediate Past Principal, OLA College of Education. Board Member, Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC). Vice Chairperson, Board of Directors for T-TEL

CoEWJ: Who is Rev. Sis. Elizabeth?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Sister Elizabeth Amoako-Arhen is a Ghanaian and a Catholic Nun (Reverend Sister) of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, known in Ghana as OLA Sisters. Sr. Elizabeth is a passionate teacher who seeks to empower her teachers to be creative and at the same time find a way that is distinctive to their personality. 

CoEWJ: Briefly, how was life growing up as young Elizabeth?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I come from a large loving family. I had a stable comfortable childhood upbringing. I grew up with my biological parents and siblings. I was the youngest in the family then and had lots of fun and attention. My family was not rich but we always had the basic necessities of life; thanks to my very hardworking and resourceful parents. My mother was a trader and an extremely strict disciplinarian. Honestly, she was too stern for our liking and gave her names. My father on the other hand was very quiet and soft spoken. He managed his own Gold Smith business.

CoEWJ: What were your aspirations as a child?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: As a Child growing up, I can recollect some unique aspirations I had and nursed: these included the desire to work very hard and rise to the top, always wanted to stand out as one of the most intelligent pupils in class, be a successful person in future and do my best to make my family very proud.

CoEWJ: At what stage did you have the desire to become a Rev. Sister?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: I was quite young actually. I was at the primary school when some Reverend Sisters paid a visit to our Parish Church in Tarkwa. I got attracted to them and as I was growing up, reflection of that encounter often struck a chord in me. This dream resonated and became a reality when I entered the training college and encountered a number of Rev. Sisters Nuns more closely. The desire to be a Sister gave me some sleepless nights; it was like fire burning within me. I joined the Sisters soon after College and thereafter started my formation into the religious life and never looked back.

CoEWJ: What was the reaction of your parents and siblings when you decided to go to the Convent?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: Honestly, none of my family members took me serious simply because I didn’t carry certain air of holiness around me. I was too ordinary, simple and happy-go-lucky type. My family did not take me serious at all. I remember my mother warning me and telling me to stop joking with serious matters, because if I dare venture and do not make it, God’s wrath will be on the family.

CoEWJ: Could you tell us a little about your parents and siblings. Were your parents strict on you as a kid?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I come from a big family. I was the last born for both parents, 7th for my Mom and 11th for my Dad.

My Dad was an introvert; calm and cool. My Mum was extremely strict, a perfectionist and a disciplinarian.

My father was literate my mother wasn’t but it was my mother who saw to it that we did our school homework and all other school assignments. I don’t know how she managed it.

Rev. Sister Elizabeth Amoako-Arhen

CoEWJ: Tell us about your school days, from basic school to the tertiary level.

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: I started school at the age of three from kindergarten and had all my pre-tertiary education at Tarkwa until I entered OLA Teacher Training College. Had both my Bachelors and Masters degrees at the University College of Cardiff and University of Wales respectively. I also pursued additional postgraduate degree at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

CoEWJ: Tell us about your schooling days at OLA Teacher Training College. Share the experience with us.

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: I enjoyed my days at OLA Training College, to the extent that I often felt sad when the college went on recess. There was something about OLA College that made me to feel so much at home with all the excitements. The standard was high, we were always reminded to behave as ladies; “ladies are to be seen not heard”, eating with the right cutlery was the norm. I remember some friends were suspended for walking across lawns, attending daily Morning Mass and keeping the rule of total silence after night prayers. It’s like a kaleidoscope of emotions rolled into years of memory.

We had a lot of recreation activities and yet took our studies very seriously. Our Principal then was an Irish Reverend Sister, who trained us to meet the standard expected of any global teacher. We also had three other expatriates Nuns and the teachers who tutored us and were extremely committed to their duties. Our tutors knew each student individually because they were interested in our general well being. Teaching Practice in nearby schools were always happy days to display one’s creativity and resourcefulness. The training was splendid and truly holistic geared towards forming women of substance.

CoEWJ: What are your fondest memories as a student teacher of OLA Teacher Training College?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: I have so many fond memories of my student days at OLA College. It is one of the places where I met most of my good friends. In my class, we were 30 all-ladies and each day brought us closer and more connected. We lived like one big family. I loved Saturday entertainment nights where students displayed their creativity and talents, the inter-house quiz competitions and the special treats that were given to each class on their special feast days. I enjoyed the spiritual nourishment we received on Our Lady’s Hill. OLA nurtured my spiritual life.

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

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: Responding to God’s call to become a Reverend Sister and living this God-given vocation for the past 40 years. It has always been the grace of God.

CoEWJ: Any regrets about the way your life has unfolded for you?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: No regrets whatsoever. I am overwhelmed with what God has done with me. I thank God for His grace and mercies that has brought me this far.

CoEWJ: Why do you think people say you are too principled?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Personally, I believe in setting standards and living by them and try to articulate the values I believe in and make sure I am guided by those standards. In that sense people sometimes see me as being too strict. I know I am ethical, disciplined and meticulous to a large extent. I do my best to act with integrity and honesty and respect people for who they are. I try to instil those values among staff, students and people I work with. I don’t submit to mediocrity and believe in fairness and justice.

CoEWJ: Kindly take us through your career life.

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I was trained as a Cert “A” Teacher and completed at OLA Training in 1980. I started my teaching career in the Basic school and taught for three years. After which I travelled to the UK for further studies. From there I moved to teach at OLA Training College in Cape Coast from 1987 and remained at post until 1998 when I was transferred to OLA Girls Senior High School in Kenyasi, Ahafo Region, as Assistant Headmistress and Acting Headmistress at certain point. Apart from teaching English, Religious Studies and Cultural Studies over the years, I can boast of almost 30 years’ experience in various leadership/management positions. These include College Principal, Vice Principal, Headmistress, Assistant Headmistress, Head of Department, Housemistress, Senior Housemistress, Form tutor and Counsellor.

CoEWJ: What are your most proud moments of life?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I’m a highly motivated, results oriented and skilled teacher educator. I have a good reputation of setting exemplary leadership and giving quality guidance to a broad category of people.

  • Meeting past students of the College and learning how well they are doing in their chosen careers or fields with high accomplishments gives me a great sense of fulfilment. For example, a good number of past students have attained PhD and lecturing at tertiary institutions. There are past students in other professions including lawyers, Judges, Politicians, accomplished businesswomen etc.
  • Getting to know about the levels of high quality that my past students and people I have mentored attach to their work also makes me proud.
  • A unique proud moment that I always recall with pride was when I completed my Bachelors degree with First Class Honours from Cardiff University, U.K. and was awarded Her Majesty’s full Scholarship to pursue Master’s degree heightened my self-confidence.
  • My appointment as Principal of OLA College also brings a sense of honour. I was the first Ghanaian (African) Reverend Sister to occupy that position.
  • Other proudest moments include setting personal goals and achieving them.

CoEWJ: Take us through your journey to becoming Principal of OLA College of Education.

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I had worked in OLA Training College for ten years, taught and held various positions before I was transferred to OLA Secondary School in Kenyasi. Barely two years later, my Religious Superiors requested that I return to the College because the Principal was about going on retirement. The Vice Principal at the time had been transferred, so I was appointed the Vice Principal straight away and took over as the Principal a year later.

CoEWJ: 18 years of being Principal, what are your most proud moments as Principal of OLA College of Education?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I took over as the Principal in August 2001 and handed over in January 2021, so I spent19 years plus.  

Personally, I see myself always dreaming; and so feel most fulfilled whenever I am able to realize my dreams or implement a unique innovation that will contribute to the provision of quality education delivery and at the same time make learning practical and enjoyable for my student.

During my tenure, I led OLA College of Education to position itself nationally as a model pacesetter in the field of teacher education with introduction of innovations and technological advancement in the training of contemporary teachers.

Other uplifting moments were, when the College introduced ICT and TLM integration as liberal courses for all levels. This was long before UCC brought ICT into the curriculum of Colleges. OLA was the first College to set up ICT laboratory with Internet connectivity; this brought us to the limelight and made OLA the centre of attraction as far as CoEs are concerned.  

Again the introduction of contact hours versus credit hours which helped the College to attend to the needs of slow learners and brought them at par with their counterparts. Also the organization of tutorials and peer mentoring among staff as institutional practice to improve teaching and learning and whilst ensuring high quality standard brought me deep satisfaction.

One of my delightful or fulfilled moments was when I satisfied one of my many dreams and succeeded in laying fibre optic network cables across the length and breadth of OLA College campus to ensure high-performance data networking. This move was to boost telecommunications in the College community, to help my staff and students access online learning with ease, and empower the College to take advantage of the global knowledge economy. This was matched with the installation of three high-powered Dell exon servers with DR4100 backup. The facility is second to none in any of the 46 Colleges of Education and has become a centre of attraction even for traditional Universities.

I am always in my elements when my students performed excellently in their examinations and adjudged the best or one of the top Colleges in the country. Likewise, when an alumnus of the College grabbed national or regional laurels for outstanding professional practice. For instance, in 2019 and 2020 a number of OLA products received Regional and National Best Teacher prizes.

I am seen in my elements when my students outperformed their counterparts in the Colleges of Education final examinations, placing OLA College at very top. Last year for example, the 2020 Class placed OLA College of Education at the very top with 40 First Class Honours and 148 Second Class Upper Division. Such an unprecedented performance by any standard makes me feel extremely proud.  

CoEWJ: Any regrets in your career life at OLA College of Education?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: No regret whatsoever.

CoEWJ: What would you do differently if you are given the chance to head OLA College of Education again?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: I will put more energy into raising funds to accomplish projects I needed for the College to fulfil some of the dreams I had for the College.

CoEWJ: Your successor at OLA College of Education, Dr. Regina Okyere-Dankwa, what advice will you give her to succeed in her tenure as Principal of the College?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: She should keep focused on her vision for the College.  

CoEWJ: Tell us about your current role at T-TEL.

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: Currently, I am the Vice Chairman for T-TEL (Transforming Teaching Education & Learning) Board of Directors for the New T-TEL

CoEWJ: What are some of the major contributions you think T-TEL has offered to Ghana’s educational sector?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: I have been actively involved with T-TEL since its inception in 2014. It was a six-year government of Ghana project, supported by UK Aid and purposely aimed at improving initial teacher education, hence the name “Transforming Teacher Education and Learning”. Through this project, T-TEL has made a remarkable impact on national education policy reforms and teacher education in particular.

Some of the major contributions initiated in the 46 public Colleges of Education with support from T-Tel that I can readily recall:

T-TEL project:

  • Contributed to training highly motivated and inspirational teachers who have become agents of change for quality education and transformation in Ghana.
  • Helped to turn out new generation of teachers with the right mix of skills and competencies to function in our Ghanaian classrooms
  • Has given teachers a new professional status befitting the 21st century teacher.
  • Has supported NTC to come out with a National Teachers’ Standards: a blueprint that defines who Basic School teachers, and what is expected of every professional teacher.
  • Spearheaded the development of National Teacher Education Curriculum Framework (NTECFE) for teacher institutions in the country and as the basis for teacher professionalism
  • Successfully facilitated the introduction of a purely Ghanaian led 4-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree programme in Colleges of Education.
  • T-TEL collaborated with University of Cape Coast to introduce a paradigm shift in the practical teaching component for student-teachers with the incorporation of supported teaching in schools (STS) and established partnerships with practice school. All these have helped to improve the quality and the professional output of newly qualified teachers.

On the institutional transformation of Colleges of Education into tertiary institutions, the T-TEL project as part of the processes;

  • Organized series of workshops, seminars and training geared at improved College leadership and practice and by so doing strengthened our College management systems.
  • Supported Colleges of Education to set up a system for regular teacher professional development
  • Another significant activity was T-TEL facilitation and development of College Policies to give direction to the day-to-day running of Colleges. OLA College of Education for example developed 28 of such Policies. Example: Gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) Policy.
  • Colleges were guided to strengthen their quality assurance regulations and practice to ensure value for money.
  • T-TEL supported some Colleges of Education to improve connectivity on their College campuses through the installation of broadband services made possible UK Aid and MasterCard foundation.
  • T-TEL also spearheaded the upgrading of staff competencies in IT and the facilitation of virtual learning to promote technology-assisted teaching and learning solutions and virtual learning for student teachers in Colleges.
  • Such assistance came in very handy during the dreadful corona virus pandemic when virtual learning became the only option for students.

CoEWJ: In your opinion, how effective will T-TEL function now as a Ghanaian NGO?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth: The New T-Tel in its current arrangement is better placed to do more to improve Ghana education system in general. The success story of the previous T-TEL is a trump card for the current one which can be used to its advantage.

The meaning of T-TEL has been tweaked from “Transforming Teacher Education and Learning” to “Transforming Teaching, Education & Learning”. T-TEL is now a fully Ghanaian registered not-for profit organisation, which aims to become a leading supplier of educational technical assistance for improving learning outcomes and greater productivity.

As a Ghanaian organisation, it aims to exploit and utilize local talents and expertise to drive our education system to greater heights. Because of the good records set in the past, the company has since its organisation last year (2020) already secured funding from development partners like MasterCard Foundation and has established partnerships with University of Oxford and University of Toronto.

I do not have the slightest doubt that T-Tel will be very effective to beef up quality education in Ghana. The organisation has a dynamic Governing Board of seasoned, highly qualified and well-experienced men and women with strategic and innovative leadership style. Board members are passionate about education and have adequate knowledge of the practical terrain and will know how to negotiate same to achieve effect and success. It is also important to note that in selecting the Board members’ consideration was given to gender, regional and ethnic representation to ensure some level of fair balance. 

The T-TEL organisation is building strong collaboration with the Ministry of Education and its regulatory bodies (GTEC; NTC; NaCCA); Ghana Education Service and the Teacher Unions.

T-TEL has already hit the ground running with a “deep dive” survey of the current ‘Free Senior High Schools” with an initiative dubbed, Transforming Senior High School Education, Teaching and Learning (T-SHEL).  It aims to achieve an extensive and sustainable transformation in the quality of Senior High School (SHS) education. This will help to reinforce the positive changes in access brought about through the introduction of the Free SHS programme in 2017. T-SHEL seeks to ensure that every SHS graduate in Ghana is equipped with the subject knowledge, analytical and critical thinking skills needed to progress to further studies or successfully enter the world of work.

CoEWJ: What are your views on the new curriculum and the new reform that has taken place in the Colleges of Education?

Rev. Sister Elizabeth:

  • The new Bachelor of Education curriculum is an initiative by the government of Ghana aimed at improving teaching and learning in basic schools. The curriculum is aligned to a carefully woven National Teacher Education Curriculum framework (NTECF), which hinges on National Teachers’ Standards. I am very much aware of the team of seasoned experts from the teaching universities and the Colleges of Education who were put together to develop the curriculum.
  • The new curriculum is very unique in the sense that it is original, crafted by our Ghanaian experts and tailored to our local needs.
  • The curriculum aims at encouraging creativity in the teaching learning process especially in the teaching of mathematics, science and information technology.
  • The curriculum also stresses on the development of transferable skills as well as inciting the desire for life-long learning in student-teachers.
  • The curriculum also seeks to enable learners to apply knowledge and skills creatively in a way that will transform lives.
  • The curriculum is designed to ensure that students engage in hands-on activities during the teaching learning approaches to put students as the centre of teaching learning processes.
  • The new B.Ed Curriculum is designed to ensure that student teachers are able to monitor their own learning progress and the skills they have acquired, which will eventually influence the children they will go to teach.

CoEWJ: PRINCOF! How easy was it climbing the ladder to become the PRINCOF National President?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Climbing the ladder to the position of PRINCOF President was as a result of the confidence reposed in me by my colleagues. I joined Conference (PRINCOF) in 2001 after my official appointment as the Acting Principal of OLA Training College.

In fact, four years before I took up the mantle, colleagues had convinced me to go in for the position but I turned it down each time, because I had my hands full and didn’t feel up to the task at the time. May be it just wasn’t my time.

Finally, in 2013 after serious reflection I decided to take up the challenge and serve the Conference (PRINCOF). It was worth the sacrifice when I finally gave in because it gave me the opportunity to learn so much from the various interactions and served my country as well. 

 Prior to that, I had occupied various executive positions including General Secretary (two terms), Chairman and Secretary of Central Western (CENTWEST) Zone and chaired various committees of Conference (PRINCOF).

I have come to believe that what you gain in providing quality leadership and service is far more than you give.

CoEWJ: What would you mention as your biggest achievements during your tenure as PRINCOF National President?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth:   ACHIEVEMENTS  

  • Public Colleges of Education increased from thirty-eight (38) to forty-six (46). The current government through Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh (Minister of Education) absorbed eight Private Colleges of Education into the public space.
  • Initiated a common Online Application System for admissions into Colleges of Education and paired 
  • I led the purchase of PRINCOF Accommodation Facility, which holds six self-contained flats to accommodate Principals and other senior members who travel to Accra for business. The facility also holds the first ever PRINCOF Secretariat. There is additional land for putting up 36 self contained block of flats; Drawings and Bill of Quantities were ready before I exited.
  • Appointed Executive Secretary to run the affairs of the secretariat instead of an Administrator.
  • Facilitated the posting of National Service Personnel to work at the secretariat.
  • Undertook the following projects at the Secretariat:
  • Water Project (Bottled and Sachet water)
  • Designed and Printed Official Cloth for members of the association
  • Purchased a commercial truck for the water project
  • Procured 60KV capacity Generator for the PRINCOF House facility
  • I received a donation of a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (2016) from UniBank Ghana Limited for my executive use as the President.
  • Led all Principals to attend International Workshops and Conference in three prestigious Universities in the United Kingdom.
  • Every year I ensured that substantial capital from proceeds of the online Admissions was paid to each College to support and improve College infrastructure
  • During the 2016 staff audit in Colleges of Education some tutors were tagged with “skirt and blouse” qualification; referring to tutors who undertook different specialisms in their first and second degrees. Such tutors were deemed unqualified to teach in the Colleges of Education within the current tertiary status. Over 300 tutors from forty Colleges were affected and given an ultimatum to transfer to SHS or GES. With support from my executive members we were able to develop a paper to convince the NCTE Board who later agreed with us (PRINCOF Executive Members) and ordered the appointment and promotions committee to leave the affected tutors at post and migrate them unto the tertiary payroll system. It was a big relieve and some of the affected tutors have moved on to acquire PhDs and some have been promoted to become Principals.

CoEWJ: What was your toughest moment as National President of PRINCOF?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: There were some challenging periods all right but I generally enjoyed so much cooperation and support from my colleagues Principals and my executive members that we were always able to sort things out.

CoEWJ: In your opinion, what is the future of PRINCOF? What is likely to be the new designation of Principals after the mentoring period with the 5 affiliate universities.

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: PRINCOF is still very relevant and has the resources to contribute to the development of quality teacher education in Ghana. The future of PRINCOF will however, depend to a very large extent on how the Conference organizes and positions itself to make it relevant in this 21st century, and to ensure uniformity in teacher quality standards.

CoEWJ: You serve on the Governing Council of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC) as a government Representative. How did you chalk that feat?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Yes, I did serve as government representative on the erstwhile National Council for Tertiary Education. Few months to the end of that mandate, the two tertiary education regulatory bodies, NAB and NCTE were merged to form the Ghana Education Tertiary Commission (GTEC).

I suppose my nomination to serve on GTEC was as a result of how I had worked on previous Boards, Councils and Committees and above all my contributions to the work of the Ministry of Education.

CoEWJ: How will you use your current role at GTEC to champion the progress of Colleges of Education?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I am a passionate teacher educator and believe in the power of the teacher as an agent of change. This therefore requires that our initial teacher programme must be of the highest quality towards achieving the educational agenda. I am therefore ready to champion any move that contributes to promoting quality teacher education.

As a member of the Commission my first and foremost responsibility is to team up with Board members to carry out the Commission’s functions as set by the regulatory Act (1023).  

I will use my position on GTEC to support Colleges by liaising with PRINCOF executive members and Principals by keeping them updated on quality standards to keep our Colleges relevant with modern trends. I will also not hesitate to share my experiences and update Colleges on developments in the tertiary sector, and encourage them to foster good governance, equitable and inclusive access as well as urging them to promote the culture of creativity and innovation, critical thinking, research and lifelong learning. 

Our Colleges of Education must brace themselves for action and come to terms with the fact that the institutions cannot remain as they are, Colleges must develop and move to a higher level of teacher development to advance teacher effectiveness.

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

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Committing myself more to my religious activities; working to alleviate the plight of the vulnerable in society especially to empower the girls and young women in society.

CoEWJ: What are your interests and hobbies?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Reading, photography, watching football and interior decoration.

CoEWJ: Do you have any interest in national politics? Are we likely to see you contest in any political office in the near future? 

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: I believe in myself to serve my nation, “to be a citizen not a spectator” to contribute my quota for nation building but I have no intention whatsoever to ever enter into politics.

CoEWJ: What food do you enjoy most?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Rice and fish vegetable stew and riped plantain.

CoEWJ: Do you have a role model?

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth: Yes, I have role models

  • Eg. Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Ann Cotton (Founder of CAMFED)

CoEWJ: What are your final words to our readers.

Rev. Sis. Elizabeth:

  • Readers must keep up the habit of reading to the point of becoming avid readers. 
  • I also want to encourage your promoters especially teachers to move from being readers to becoming passionate writers. I’m certain that everyone who reads has a written chapter within him or her. Likewise, every teacher has a teaching idea or perspective that deserves to be shared with the rest of society. Teachers may be sceptical about the quality of their write-up and so finds it difficult to make a move. They must write what has to be written, and write what others will love to read.
  • Teachers can be very creative and imaginative when it comes to ideas, and good writers inspire and impact greatly on people’s lives. Somebody once made this statement to me, “Ghanaians can talk plenty but document very little” hence my recommendation.

CoEWJ: Thanks for the opportunity to interact with you despite the short notice.

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