Bad press, the wrong whip that destroys: Case of the interdicted Upper West Regional Director of Education

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It is an undeniable fact that the media is the ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm’ and this fact lies in its description, which fits squarely in Ghana’s current democratic dispensation as the “Freedom and independence of the media is guaranteed”.

Ghana’s 1992 Constitution gave the media enough space and protection to operate. The media according to the 1992 constitution have been tasked to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Ghana and by extension to all Governmental Agencies and Departments.

But one critical role of the media is to ensure that there is balance, fairness and above all objectivity in its work this is the ethical standard of all media practice around the globe. This is particularly compelling when article 163 of the Constitution enjoins the media thus “All state-owned media shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions”.

This is where the media in the Upper West Region fell short of its expectations as one-sided stories and half-truths are often peddled about with impunity with GJA looking unconcerned. One cannot chronicle all irresponsible journalism practice in the region but what is utmost interest is the recent bad press written against the interdicted Upper West Regional Education Director Mr Duncan Nsoh without offering him the opportunity to put out his side of the story.

The media in Ghana is vibrant and really thriving but one disturbing feature of the Ghanaian media is that it is ‘packed’ with charlatans and half-baked trained practitioners who have little or no knowledge about the working of this noble profession called journalism. Some unaccredited journalism schools are also taking advantage of the situation and churning out mediocre products who have little knowledge of the profession. Journalism ethics are therefore thrown to the dogs. The reason for which the issue surrounding the interdiction of the Upper West Regional Director of Education should be looked at again in ascertaining the facts surrounding his suspension before, during and after his suspension by setting the record straight for the consumption of the general public.

The interdicted Upper West Regional Director of Education, Mr Duncan Nsoh took over as the Upper West Regional Director of education on 29th May, 2019 from the then Regional Director of Education, Mr Evans Kpebah, who went on statutory retirement. He took over as a regional director of education at a time when the standard of education in the region was at its lowest ebb and thus required pragmatic steps to salvage and improve the educational situation in the region.

Having settled down, Mr Nsoh initiated moves with stakeholder engagement to identify the root cause of the fallen standards of education in the region and to seek permanent solutions to all teething problems bedeviling education in the area. This led to series of engagements and discussions with major stakeholders including the various Traditional Authorities, the Upper West Regional Minister Dr Hafiz Bin Salih among others under his reform programme on the theme: “Education: Everybody’s Business” Initiative.

These engagements climaxed with a Stakeholder Education Forum held at the Wa Technical Institute in October 2019 with the support of the Upper West Regional Minister, Dr Hafiz Bin Salih and the Regional Coordinating Council.

The outcome of the forum was as a first step; Mr Duncan started to carry out staff rationalization exercise throughout the region. The rationalization was meant to transfer some Ghana Education Service (GES) staff in some schools who have worked in that particular school close to twenty-five years (25) or more leading to the breakdown of discipline, law and order in most of these schools in the region. The staff rationalization exercise really touched some ‘untouchables’ in the region and some of them who were not happy about the exercise resorted to leveling of wild allegations against the interdicted regional director of education.

The Director General of Education Professor Amankwa, caused the interdiction of Mr Duncan Nsoh, based on one sided media report, premised on three issues — the alleged auctioning of a vehicle belonging to the Wa School for the Deaf to himself, wrongful deduction of monies from transfer grants due some teachers in the region and the alleged collection of monies from prospective heads of some Senior High Schools that were without headmaster/mistresses. This is an issue still unresolved, the reason being that nobody has heard from the then regional director of education especially his side of the story. It is one sided media report feeding the public, which has been upheld to be the gospel truth.

In the normal scheme of things, this is unfair and against the fundamental human rights of the interdicted regional director of education as article 19(1) of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that “A person charged with a criminal offence shall be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a competent court of jurisdiction “. But here Mr Duncan Nsoh has been thrown into the public opinion court and all sorts of backlashes were thrown at him. This is classic case of a bad press.

Indiscipline among Teachers in the Region

Sources close to the regional education directorate revealed that there was grave indiscipline among teachers in the region, which had led to fallen standards in education in the region. Information gathered indicated that some teachers in the region reported to school, signed their names and vacated their posts to perform other personal duties such as tricycle driving business, opening of their shops to sell things and sitting at various camps to drink tea popularly known as “attaya”.

Checks also indicated that some teachers in the Wa Municipality taught only three periods per week instead of the required minimum of 18 periods. This was a clear waste of human resource as the tax payers money is used in paying teachers for no work done. This has also contributed to the fallen standards in education in the region as teachers had the leverage to indulge in their personal businesses to the detriment of teaching and learning.

The staff rationalization exercise carried out by the interdicted regional director of education was also necessitated by the overcrowding of teachers in schools within towns while schools at rural areas were bedeviled with the lack of teachers. Also, information gathered indicated that, “square pegs were put in round holes” and it was the norm rather than exception as some teachers taught subjects other than their subjects of specialization.

For example, teachers with Integrated Development Studies/Dagaare background were teaching English Language whilst those with Diploma in Business Studies background were teaching Mathematics in some schools in the region. A very bizarre situation to say the least.

In an effort to solve challenges of fallen academic standards in the region, the interdicted Regional Director of Education had to painstakingly and meticulously do the reasonable thing by transferring some of the teachers to schools where their services were most needed. Some teachers, who stayed in their schools for more than eighteen (18) years and were transferred, resisted the postings and vowed to stay at where they were. Mr Duncan Nsoh stood his grounds and remained fair and firm by his decisions on the transfers and ensured that the directives from him were fully complied to improve standard of Education in the region. This obviously might have angered some of the affected teachers who rose against the then regional director of education and made a lot of one-sided allegations against him through the media leading to his interdiction by the Director General in order to get their pound of flesh.

Appointment of headmasters/mistresses

A cursory look at page sixteen (16) of the handing over notes of the then regional director of education, Mr Evans Kpebah to the incoming Mr Duncan Nsoh then, sighted by this writer, indicates that, at the time of handing over, seven Senior High Schools and five districts and municipal education offices did not have headmasters and Directors respectively. The schools were: Wa Senior High/Technical School, Ullo SHS, Loggu Community Day SHS, Birifoh SHS, Hilla Liman SHS, Funsi SHS and Piina SHS. The Districts and Municipalities without directors also included: Sissala East, Sissala West, Lawra, Nandom, Wa East, and Daffiama-Bussie-Issah Districts. However, in an effort to revamp and improve education in the region upon assumption of office, Mr Nsoh worked assiduously to ensure that those schools and districts and municipalities were operating with various heads. This confirmed his commitment to improving the education sector of the region.

Mr. Nsoh also took steps to ensure that the first batch of the Free SHS students performed creditably well as it would be a benchmark for accessing the Free SHS policy which was introduced by the government in 2017. However, the letter which interdicted Mr Nsoh, cited an alleged collection of monies from prospective headmasters/mistresses prior to their recommendation to the Ghana Education Service head office for consideration.

Another serious allegation leveled against Mr Nsoh by the one-sided media who were vociferous in attacking him without finding out his side of the story was based on such appointment of headmasters and headmistresses. Meanwhile, sources close to the education directorate and facts gathered by this writer indicate that Mr Nsoh never collected a dime from any individual for the purpose of appointing him or her as headmaster/mistress. No headmaster at the time of writing this piece was able to confirm this.

Deduction of transfer grants

The interdiction of Mr Nsoh was also based on one sided media report fueled by the allegations that he wrongfully and forcefully deducted monies from transfer grants due to some teachers in the region. Checks by this writer reveal that the interdicted Regional Director of Education, Mr Duncan Nsoh did not deduct any money neither did he authorize the deduction of any such money.

The directive from the Director General of the Ghana Education Service regarding the payment of those transfer grants did not state any percentage deduction from the monies due those teachers. Why would Mr Nsoh go out of his way and make deductions not approved by the Ghana Education Service.

Preliminary investigations revealed that those transfer grants were paid to beneficiary teachers at the district level and some teachers in some districts voluntarily and out of their own volition paid “silver collection” to their districts which were used to purchase refrigerators for the district education directorate. Those teachers were highly commended at the education forum in Wa where the refrigerators where handed over to the districts, while some districts where the teachers who did not pay those “silver collections” did not have the luxury of any refrigerator. Again, wrong media report on this particular issue has given Mr Duncan Nsoh a bad name and in the process soiling his reputation. This goes to confirm that the allegations by some individuals that Mr Nsoh forcefully deducted monies from transfer grants due to some teachers in the region was neither here nor there but something done calculated to destroy his hard-earned reputation through mischief.

Auctioned vehicles

One of the many serious allegations leveled against Mr Duncan Nsoh had something to do with some auctioned vehicles especially when it was mentioned that he has even auctioned to himself some vehicles including a truck belonging to the Wa School for the Deaf somewhere in December 2019.

Again, any serious mind in search of the truth reading, page 24 of the December 4, 2019 edition of the Ghanaian Times newspaper carried a Gazetted auction notice by the auctioneer, Mr Tinito Mart requiring the auctioning of some vehicles belonging to some schools in the region.

Checks indicated that notices were served to the affected schools and all district and municipal directors of education before the said auctioning was carried out. Investigations also revealed that the said truck belonging to the Wa School for the Deaf which sparked the controversy contributing to the interdiction of Mr Nsoh was bought by one Azumah Dominic in Kumasi, Ashanti Region with the receipt available as clear-cut evidence.

Checks also indicated that authorities of the Wa School for the Deaf met with the interdicted Regional Director of Education for possible return of the vehicle to the school as its absence would greatly affect the effective running of the school. Letters were written by Mr Nsoh as a result of that meeting which was personally delivered by Mr Nsoh to the appropriate quarters for consideration. Though plans were initiated by the interdicted Regional Director of Education to see to the possible return of the vehicle, the school authorities defied the chain of communication and employed different mechanisms to retrieve the vehicle.

It is pertinent to note that Mr Azumah, upon hearing the unfortunate interdiction of the director, returned the vehicle to the Upper West Regional Minister for onward handing over to the school for the Deaf for peace to rein supreme in the region.

I have raised serious concerns about how the media wrongly dealt with the case of Mr Duncan Nsoh in the region for not giving him the opportunity to state his side of the case, thereby infringing on his fundamental human rights. It is unfortunate that Mr Nsoh, who is media friendly person, was not duly contacted by sections of the media to verify those allegations leveled against him before publishing their stories as all stories about him were one sided. Checks indicated that at the time of leveling several allegations against the interdicted Regional Director of Education, he was on official assignment outside the region and was not readily available to speak to the media on the issues and in fact only one media house contacted him, the rest did not. One may ask why those affected media personnel could not as required by their ethical standards found a way of hearing his side of the story to enable them publish a balanced, objective and fair report on the then interdicted regional director of education but hurriedly published a one-sided story which had led to his interdiction? If this is not mischief then tell me what it is. Again, is this the type of democracy we crave given the fact every person must be protected by the Constitution as the supreme law of the land?

It is very important to point out that the Director General has taken a decision to suspend the then Regional Director of Education for the Upper West Region Mr Duncan Nsoh. That is fair and well and within the remit of the law.

In doing this one is so sure that it was done to ensure that sanity prevails for the smooth running of the educational system for the Upper West Region. But one thing I want all of us to put our minds to is the use of one-sided media reportage to cause the interdiction of the then Upper West Regional Director of Education.

We have seen that in all of these allegations, no attempt has been made to get his side of the story published by his accusers. This is not fair and it is against natural justice.

In order not to preempt the outcome of the committee tasked to find out the truth or otherwise of the situation, I would say that the committee should be mindful of various wrong media reportage as that has the tendency to seriously influence the outcome of their report. It is also a good call on the GJA to continuously organize refresher courses on ethics of the profession to ensure that the media adhered to high professional standards and conduct. A stitch in time saves nine.

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