Our SSNIT contributions-The Plight of the Ghanaian teacher

It’s Time To Quit Teaching!

This week, I had an experience with the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) which I share in the following write-up because it concerns the future of all SSNIT contributors, especially, the contributions of the Ghanaian teacher.

My profession today as a teacher did not come by accident. I said it by word of mouth when I was young and it has come to pass. Sometime in 1995, I was asked by my class teacher when we were doing My future career, “what do you want to be in the future?” To this, I answered: “a teacher.” He said, “Say it in a full sentence.” I said, “I want to be a teacher.” I saw a quizzical look on his face. Then, whether by intention or surprise, the teacher asked me a follow-up question: “why do you want to be a teacher?” I answered: “Because my father is a teacher.” The next comment helped me to learn a new expression: “You want to be in your father’s shoes eh? That is good.” That was how I got to understand the expression “to be in someone’s shoes,” and I’ve never forgotten it.

Several years later, I tried to switch options, but to no avail. It all started in 2002 when my father was taken ill. I saw with my own two eyes how my father struggled and struggled with his ailment. I saw how he applied for a loan from the Rural bank and sent me several times to go and check whether it was ready. And any time I went, the response was negative. It took several weeks before the meagre loan was ready. By then, his health had deteriorated. He died a few weeks later. That was how we started engaging SSNIT for our survivors’ benefits. It was long and convoluted. We were told by people who knew how that it would take us at least two years to receive our claims. It did not take that long but when we were finally given the money, my share of the money could not take me two years through secondary school. Yet, my father contributed for at least 22 years!

After secondary school, my options were limited because of financial constraints. I taught for close to three years in five private schools before I arrived at a decision. When I finally settled on it, I trained happily and taught with passion as a teacher. I’ve always defended the noble profession and decided to help our country by helping her educational efforts in the classroom.

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Last week, I had a deep reflection on our profession and for the first time, I’ve decided to quit! Why?
I went to the SSNIT office to print my Statement- something very few teachers do. They gave it to me. When I checked, I’d contributed for eleven out of the twelve years of my teaching. Then I noticed something curious. In 2014, there were no contributions from June to December. For the entire twelve months of 2015, there was not a single contribution. For 2016, there were no contributions from January to July.
So I was asked to go and print two payslips for each of the affected years. I went and paid Ghc 6.00 to get the six payslips. When I checked, I nearly passed out. So I came home and took my time to go through it meticulously. I realized that for all those months, deductions were not made. I tried to find out why and the reason was that in those years, I was the subject of intermittent payments. And any time my salary payment was interrupted, it took at least three months to be restored. And I was not alone in this. Thousands of teachers experienced it, too. Whenever they did this, they did not deduct the arrears. It wasn’t easily noticeable. But that was the cause. This was no fault of mine or any SSNIT contributor.

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I went back to the SSNIT office to see if we could arrange a payment plan so I could retrieve the employer’s part of the payment as mine was made. The officer at SSNIT said I had no chance! He said, “you have eaten your eggs!” He further explained that even for some people, the employee’s 5.5% is deducted but the employer’s 13.5% is not and even in that situation, they never really get to restore it because their system is unable to pick it, so once it’s gone, it’s gone!
But my friends, what really made me sad was that, when I calculated all the twelve years of my contributions to SSNIT, my total contribution was Ghc 9,429!
I checked the number of years I have left in active service, less than 30 years, and I don’t need the foresight of a Jewish prophet to tell me that, if I continue like this, by the time I retire, I can’t make even a Ghc 100,000. In fact, I’ll be nowhere near it!
So now, my mind is made up. We’re all children of God, but we are not called to die like our fathers. Perhaps, if our fathers had had the opportunities we have today, they would not have died the way they did. They were not lazy people. They accepted postings to some of the most awful places in our country just because of the Ghanaian child. My father was called the village teacher not because he was a villager, but because he accepted to teach in villages where there were no lights and access to certain basic social amenities. In one village, he taught English, Social Studies, and Agricultural Science even though he had trained as a French teacher. And this was because there was an insufficient number of teachers.

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So I’m putting this out for two reasons:

  1. Go to SSNIT, print your Statement and check. You may have issues.
  2. Take a second look at our profession. If an opportunity beacons, please don’t hesitate!

For now, we’ll tarry, but if circumstances force us out we won’t resist. The Ghanaian teacher is as apt a candidate for a good retirement package as politicians were. The last time I checked eight years ago, the retirement package for a Member of Parliament of Ghana who had served for four years with fringe benefits was four billion old cedis! (4 billion cedis). They are not better than the teacher who braves the weather to teach at Wechiau, Akomfire, Kongo, Afram Plains, Nkowi, Alavanyo, Asuoho Pipie, or Sefwi Petekoa. We are way better than this insult of a calling we are handed. Our children will not forgive us if we fail to secure the future for them.

Thanks for your attention. Have a good weekend and a good reflection.

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