14 April 2010 – Show me the money

I am not sure how to write about this. As a guest and a visitor I don’t want to criticize this country. Lord knows that an American can’t be too critical, with the log the eye of her country, yet this incident has angered me so much I feel I must write of it or my account of my stay here would not be honest.

During fall semester GES declared that the students should pay a ‘staff incentive fee’ of up to 10 GH Cedis each term or 30 GH Cedis for the year. The form one students were to bring the whole 30 GH Ce dies when the arrived during the first term. The other students were to pay each term. After much discussion, which I missed, it was decided that at our school, students would pay 5 GH Cedi each term or 15 GH Cedis for the year.

The fee itself is the one thing that makes me angry for three reasons. First, if GES wants to give a raise to teachers they shouldn’t do it on the backs of the students and their parents. GES should do the right thing and give the teachers the raise they deserve. Second, in the north 30 Cedis a year would almost double the school fees of our students. I am sure that’s why my school decided to go with only 5 Cedis. Third, students and parents sacrifice a lot to send students to school, to burden them with even more fees is an unnecessary hardship.

I spoke my mind to a few people. I told my girls I would not take my money. They said if not me then who? Even if I take it I must put it back into my work here. As a Peace Corps Volunteer I can’t take anything but my stipend. I expressed my anger under the tree, where the masters gather during classes. Others said that the government had made a promise to give teachers a raise. This was how they were going to fulfill it. Some said that other schools charged the whole 10 GH Cedis per term. Finally I decided I had to let it go, for my own peace of mind. It was going to happen; I couldn’t change it.

Near the middle of the first term, at weekly staff meeting, it was brought up again. Why hadn’t the money been disbursed? Other schools were disbursing the money. The Headmaster said we must appoint a committee to decide how the money was going to be disbursed. The Headmaster said he wanted us to teach Extra Classes for the money. Now the arguments began. First students themselves don’t want Extra Classes. They refused them third term last year. Second the fee is for all staff how can you justify giving the majority of it to teaching staff. Third it is too little money for Extra Classes.

Headmaster said “How can I give you money if you don’t work for it?” There were more arguments.

“What do you mean we don’t work for it?”

“Are we paid to take students to hospital on our moto’s when they are sick?”

“Are we paid to be coaches for our houses?”

“Are we paid for any of the extra jobs we do outside of teaching?”

“That’s why GES declared the staff incentive fee, in recognition of what we do beyond teaching.”

The Headmaster agreed to appoint a committee, but would not take Extra Classes off the table. The committee will consider those who do extra work here at the school as well. People muttered under their breath – “We won’t do.” “We won’t do.” “The extra classes” “We won’t do.”

At another weekly staff meeting, near the end of the term, the matter came up again. The committee had come up with a formula, 20% this, 5% this, and 75% that. It was hard for me to follow. There were no printouts of this plan so the numbers just flew in my head and out. There was some mention of the money collected from the first year students. The headmaster said “Don’t talk about that it’s gone”.

“Where?” Someone asked.

Headmaster gave his usual reply about money. “Gone to feed the students.”

There was an outcry. I think something was said of putting it back when the feeding grants came. I am not sure of the out come of the availability of the money from the first year students. What finally came of the discussion was that we could go collect 18 Ghana Cedis each.

There was a lot of talk during the meeting and it all centered around the fact that these are educated people and they can do math. We have about 35 masters and then maybe another 30 staff total but for easy miscalculations sake, let us agree to 100 people. Multiply 100 by 18 Ghana and we get 1,800 Ghana Cedis to be given out.

How much has already been collected? By this time about 300 Form 1s had reported. If they all brought the 15 Ghana Cedis for the whole year then there should be 4,500 Cedis from them. The rest of the student body is 450. Most of them brought their 5 Ghana Cedis during mid term break. So say 400 times 5 Ghana, that’s another 2,250 Cedis. So the first term the administration should have collected 6,750 Ghana Cedis give or take a few hundred. Where did the rest of the money go? Where is the 4,900 or so Cedis left over? In answer we were told that this was only a base payment and that the committee must meet again to share the rest based on extra jobs that people do on campus beyond assigned duties.

By this time I began to believe that the money that was collected from these cash poor students and their families is never going to be used for the purpose it was intended to be used.

Francis reminds me three or four times to come to his office to collect my Cedis. I avoided him. I was a coward and did not want to tell him I won’t take and why. He caught me one day when I was at administration and I signed for the money. I decided to use it for a end of term meal with the students who come to my house.

Finally the term was over and I put the whole thing out of my mind.

I miss the end of term staff meeting and the beginning of term staff meeting due to traveling and Peace Corps training. This issue was discussed. Still no resolution, so at every weekly staff meeting someone brought the issue up. Each person was angry and worried about where the money would go. One person actually said “Money has a way of loosing value here if it sits too long in the accounts. We don’t want it to go away.”

While talking under the tree, masters shared that they had met their mates in other schools and heard that they had collected 100, 120 or even 140 Ghana Cedis ‘staff incentive’ with no problems at all. What was going on here at Sandema Senior High Technical School? Each time there is some excuse for delay. The committee must meet again. Can’t we consider Extra Classes as part of this? Shouldn’t we have a general staff meeting to dicuss it?

Finally near the end of this second term it was announced that everyone would collect 38 Ghana Cedis. So let’s do the math again. The second and third year students, 450 of them, each brought 5 Ghana Cedis at the beginning of the second term. So that’s another 2,250 to add to the 4,900 already on account for Staff Incentive, for a total of 7,150. So 38 Cedis for our agreed upon 100 staff and masters comes to 3,800 Cedis leaving 3,350 Cedis in the pot. We have not been told who will get the remaining Cedis or how it will be shared.

-vc

This time we were supposed to pick up the money with the Headmaster’s secretary. I decided I just wouldn’t go. And Francis won’t know if I picked it up or not so no reminders. Well guess what. She came to my door three days ago with money in hand. I took it. It is now set aside to send Rofina and Portia on a school field trip to Accra next term. Again I feel like I am taking dirty money and hope the good use will cleanse it.

I feel powerless to change the situation. Maybe writing about it will help me to come to terms with it.

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