Teachers' participation in community development activities in Ghana
Teachers are being encouraged in Ghana to facilitate local level development. No
attempt has however been made to explore their views, concerns and expectations
regarding such involvement, nor the impact that this could have on their role as teachers
and their status in the community, nor on the community's own participation in the
school. The research examined these issues, alongside the type of development activities
engaged in by teachers and their motivation for doing so.
The study focused on teachers working in deprived areas across eight regions of Ghana.
It involved a combination of quantitative and qualitative strategies. The former enabled
the systematic gathering of standardised questionnaire data, using both closed and open
ended items, from 324 practising teachers and 380 teacher trainees. The latter involved
semi structured interviews and informal discussions with 24 teachers, 10 local residents
from one village, 10 educational administrators and five college tutors. Focus group
discussions were also held with eight groups of teacher trainees. One teacher was used
to illustrate an example of a classroom teacher who is actively involved in community
work. Content analysis of the Daily Graphic provided both quantitative and qualitative
data. The qualitative aspect of the study was used to pursue other interesting lines of
enquiry that was revealed through the initial analysis of the questionnaires.
Data from the teacher questionnaire and interviews showed that teachers are involved in
both voluntary and compulsory communal activities, paid and unpaid, and many
teachers are in leadership or supervisory positions. In contrast it was observed that
teachers have few school responsibilities apart from their normal classroom teaching.
The reasons for their involvement in communal activities rather than in school activities
are explored in the study. Evidence is provided to show that on the one hand teacher
involvement in community activities contributes to the provision of basic amenities in a
community and can also impact positively on schooling. On the other hand it can lead to
teacher absenteeism and lateness and bring about a conflict between some teachers and
local residents. Despite reservations and problems, educational administrators and local
residents endorsed teachers' participation and reports suggest that in some villages,
residents actively encouraged teachers.
Based on the evidence suggesting that teacher involvement in community work is good
for the community, the school and teachers themselves, there are arguments in support
of this involvement. Firstly, there are lessons to be learnt that could be translated to the
schools. For example the leadership skills of teachers within the community can be used
to provide effective school leadership. Secondly, it may allow the gap between schools
and their communities to be bridged. Thirdly, it may encourage greater participation by
the community in education as a reciprocal gesture. Finally teachers appear to benefit
both directly and indirectly from this involvement.
The recommendations suggest that potential negative effects on schooling could be
lessened if teachers' community activities are better organised and effectively managed
and trainee teachers exposed to more practical work. The study describes how trainees
could be predisposed to events, experiences and encounters to gain the needed practical
exposure and organisational skills. It also mentions ways in which the school should be
brought closer to the community as a strategy to assist teachers to fulfil their dual role.
Further research should include an investigation of teachers' involvement in community
activities in urban settings to enable comparison with teachers in rural areas, and a closer
analysis of the impact of such involvement on schooling in general and classroom
activities in particular.