Let's Rethink How Teachers are Trained

An urgent call has been advocated for a rethink of how teachers are trained in both universities and colleges of education in the country. “In making teaching in our institutions of higher education meaningful to students and our nation, we need to rethink how teachers are prepared in our universities and colleges of education”. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Prof. George K. T. Oduro said this at a seminar organised by the Centre for Teaching Support (CTS) on the theme: “Decolonising Mind and Action, Improving Teaching and Impact in Higher Education: Reflections in Ghana”. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor who was dilating on the sub-theme: “Colonial Mindsets in Higher Education Teaching: Influences on Teaching Philosophy, Pedagogical Stance and Teaching Impact”. The curriculum of tertiary institutions across the continent is still modeled on the thoughts and practices of the West and thus seems to orient towards the ideals of the colonial masters. This, notwithstanding the fact they physically departed the shores of the continent several decades ago. It was in the light of this that the forum was organised to find the way forward for this huge drawback on the continents development. Effort to reorient learning in higher education in Africa was made over five and a half decades ago when the Institute of African Studies and the School of Music and Drama were set up at the University of Ghana. This, Prof. Oduro said was made clear in the inaugural address of Osagyefo (Dr.) Kwame Nkrumah when he called for a “re-interpretation and a new assessment of African past and the abrogation of Eurocentric paradigms towards the study of African culture”. Unfortunately, however, Prof. Oduro said 60 years after Ghana’s independence, there must be something overwhelmingly wrong with the delivery of university education since in the minds of many analysts of African universities the curriculum and degree structure of African universities and the medium of delivery were deeply rooted in colonialism. Touching on the mindset that underpinned higher education provision and delivery in Africa, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor said it could be deduced from a proposal made by British Colonial Governor Laud Macauley that: “I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief- such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values. People of such caliber, I do not think we would ever conquer... unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Africans think that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose self esteem, their native culture and they will become that we want them, a truly dominated nation”. According to Prof. Oduro, the Centre through the forum, was re-affirming the commitment of the university to Dr. Nkrumah’s Africanisation agenda for higher education as enshrined in the university’s anthem as: “we ‘re the brain child of Nkrumah, we train, we mould and live by his vision to impact all virtues that Ghana may be heightened”. To help uphold this virtue, he called for a paradigm shift from teacher centered teaching approaches to learner-centered and activity approach such as discussion method, problem-based teaching and IT aided teaching methods. He urged teachers to create non-threatening learning environments that would promote the voices of students and also endeavour to inform their teaching with local researched literature instead of the over-reliance on foreign literature. A Professor of African History at the University, Prof. De-Velera Botchway, who also spoke on the sub-theme, “Disrupting Colonial Mindset in the 21st Century Higher Education Teaching: The Power of Critiquing Colonial Paradigms and Engaging Reflective Thinking about Thoughts and Action” was not happy that in the 21st century the education set up in Africa was still following that of the colonial masters. Prof. Botchway reiterated that it was this kind of malaise that Kwame Nkrumah wanted to eradicate with the establishment of UCC, but upon his overthrow in 1966 those who took up the mantle did not deem it fit to continue. “Education must be Afrocentric in vision to help overthrow the colonial set up. We need to have the power to define”. Quoting one of South Africa’s freedom fighters Steve Biko, Prof. Botchway said the most potent weapon in the hands of oppressor was “the mind of the oppressed” and said, this called for the emancipation of the minds of Africans from mental slavery. Waxing lyrical the history Professor called on Africans to work towards this themselves by reminding them of what the late Jamaican Reggae legend Bob Marley said about this as: “Emancipate your self from mental slavery, non but ourselves can free our minds”. One major setback to this forward march for Africans to be masters of their own is the use of the language of the colonisers as both medium of instruction in schools and as official language in Africa. “We are still using the language of the colonizer and this is the main problem of keeping to the clutches of coloniality”. Prof. Botchway indicated that, to be respected in the globalised world “is to go back to originality”. Describing coloniality as the continuous use of the vestiges of colonialism in our current dispensation, he deplored the use of Latin words as motto of institutions, the wearing of wigs and gowns by judicial officers, use of academic gowns during graduation ceremonies and suits as official uniforms. He called for the creation of African symbols and dress codes for such functions since they would do away with those colonial representations in our institutions. He appealed to teachers to co-create and co-learn with their students instead of them acting the “sole repository of learning’. “Teachers still adopt the missionary method of teaching and see students as ‘tabula rasa’ meaning having nothing in their heads”, he noted. “This must change, educating people to regurgitate and by rote learning does not allow our students to contribute anything to society upon completion. We are training a lot but nothing changes”, Prof. Botchway stressed. Explaining the purpose of the programme, the Director of CTS, Dr. Douglas Agyei said the seminar was organised to help teaching staff of the University and other institutions of higher education to engage in critical reflection and develop practices that would improve teaching and learning. He added that CTS provides training through workshops, seminars on variety of seminars. The seminar was chaired by the Director of Research, Innovation and Consultancy (DRIC), Prof. Samuel Kobina Annim