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Teacher demoted by educational authority for granting interview to the media

(MFWA/IFEX) - MFWA adds its voice to those of concerned Ghanaian organisations in condemning the Ghana Education Service (GES) for gagging and punishing teachers who provide information concerning their work and their schools to the media and the public.

On 18 September 2007 the GES, in a letter signed by the Tema Municipal Director of Education, transferred and demoted Helen Abrokwa, former head teacher of Padmore Street Primary School in Tema, over interviews she granted the media on the enrolment of pupils in her school.

The GES allegedly ordered Abrokwa, who had more than 30 years of experience in teaching to leave her administrative position and resume classroom duties for disclosing the low enrolment at the start of the new academic year to the media.

The transfer and subsequent demotion of Abrokwa followed an earlier threat against another education professional. The GES nearly transferred James Okaija Dinsey, the Greater Accra Regional Director of Education, for speaking to the media.

The alleged "offence" of the two teachers is not in breach of any GES disciplinary code.

We encourage the gagged teachers and their organization, the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), to take legal action to prevent the GES from trampling on teachers' right to free speech and access to the media. MFWA will contribute support to such action, if necessary.

MFWA believes that the tendency of the GES to gag teachers for expressing opinion and providing information on their work to the media and the public has, among other possible consequences, the potential to:

- intimidate teachers and frighten them from being open and truthful;
- deprive teachers of their professional duty to tell the truth;
- sow among students a fear of being open and respectful of facts and the truth, which education must inculcate in the citizens; and
- deny the public information about what goes on in our schools and the education system.

MFWA appeals to the Minister of Education to condemn the action of the GES and to take institutional measures to ensure that educational institutions at all levels uphold and promote the values and tenets of freedom of expression as enshrined in the 1992 Ghana Constitution.

MFWA is a regional, independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Accra. It was founded in 1997 to defend and promote the rights and freedom of the media and all forms of expression.

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