It is a laudable decision that must be seriously considered and quickly implemented to ensure that working parents and guardians fully justify their salaries and wages. I am talking about the suggestion by the Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, that the current hours of basic or elementary schools be extended from 2 pm to 4 pm, so that working parents will not have to shortchange their employers by being forced to leave work before the official closing time, as currently prevails all across the country (See “ ‘Ghanaian Schools Close Too Early; It Affects Productivity’ – Education Minister” Yen.com.gh / Ghanaweb.com 8/9/17).
I need not let on that if this situation occurred anywhere here in the West, such as the United States, most working parents without household help or maids and servants would either have to resign their jobs or get promptly fired. Of course, there is also here what is called “Flex Hours” or flexible work schedules, whereby parents may decide to work out convenient work schedules that accommodate or permit them to perform some of their parental responsibilities without seriously interrupting their occupational contracts or jeopardizing the same. Take this one personal case scenario, for example. My wife does what is called “The Graveyard Shift,” or works at night from 11 pm to 7 am, so I have a schedule that enables me to start work at noon or a little later, so as to enable me to drop off our two boys at school in the morning before 8 o’clock, when their mother arrives home from work.
The older boy, who attends a Charter School, closes at 4 pm most days, so my wife is able to get fairly enough rest before having to pick him up. My younger son attends a separate school that closes at 2:35 pm every day, but the school has an After-School Program that takes care of the children of working parents until 4:30-5:00 pm. So my wife is able to pick up both boys and be home by 6 pm on most days. I get back from work between 9:30 pm and 10 pm, by which time she would have readied herself for work at 11 pm, except, of course, on her days off.
What I want to talk about here is the After-School Program, which is conducted and/or supervised by either full-time teachers who have signed up to do so at an extra allowance, or Substitute Teachers or Teachers’ Aides who are also paid an hourly wage or stipend to do just that. What happens during the two- or three-hour After-School Program period is what is of an even greater significance here. It is during this latter period that students do their homework. So by 5:30 pm or 6 pm when they arrive home, after being picked up from school, the children would only have a few other things to do, including having to take their shower/bath and having their dinner, or last meal for the day, before “hitting the sack,” or slumping into their beds, as New Yorkers are wont to say.
Parents who pick up their children late from the After-School Program, are usually charged a nominal extra-fee, in addition to whatever flat rate may be charged by the administrators of the program, usually varied per every quarter-hour that a child is not picked up by a parent. The Education Minister could explore ways by which laid-off or unemployed teachers could be rehired and paid a reasonable fraction of the salaries of full-time teachers, including transport fares and dinner allowances, to run these After-School programs. Implementing such a program will, of course, entail a considerable increase of the budget of public education, but it would be money well spent in the long haul.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
August 11, 2017
E-mail: [email protected]