The Ghana National Association of Teachers is a service organization that is concerned with ensuring better conditions of service for its members who are drawn from pre-tertiary levels of the educational system(i.e. from public and private primary ,junior and secondary schools, teacher training colleges, technical institutes and offices of educational administration units).
The total membership of GNAT now stands 178,000(according to figures issued by the controller and Accountant-General's Department as of September, 2003).
A Little History
The first teachers' union to be formed in this country (then Gold Coast) was the Government School Teacher Union (GSTU) in 1925.It was to serve as a platform for teachers to express their views on issues that affected their conditions of work.
However, the GSTU did not represent all teachers since it excluded teachers who did not teach in Government schools.
Following a massive protest by teachers against the colonial government's to impose a 29 percent tax on their salaries, teachers mostly in schools set up by religious bodies formed the Assisted School Teachers Union(ASTU) in 1931.This body embraced teachers in both government schools and set up and managed by religious bodies.
In 1956, GSTU and ASTU reached an agreement to come together as one union under the common name of Gold Coast Teachers' Union (GCTU). In 1958,the GCTU joined with the Union of Teachers and Educational Institutions Workers(UTEIW) as one of the fourteen (14) affiliated unions of the Ghana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) in accordance with provision of the Industrial Relation Act of 1958.This Act ,however ,excluded all workers who were earning 680 per annum and above at the time, from membership. This prevented a number of teachers in secondary schools and training colleges on technical grounds.
Moreover, teachers did not favour TUC's over-dependence on the CPP Government and therefore decided to opt out, as Osae(1982)notes, to avoid being dragged into ideological controiversies,governments,whether in power or not. Above all, the ideological and "class" stance of teachers themselves that they had little in common with blue-collar workers of the TUC was the last straw that broke the camel's back.
Consequently, the then President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah agreed to teachers' demand to back out of the T.U.C. Thus on July 14, 1962, the Minister of Education formally inaugurated the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) as a separate organization from and independent of the TUC.
Though the GNAT derives its legal existence from the Trustee Incorporation Act, 1962 which strictly classifies it as a voluntary association, it has been recognized by successive government as the sole representative body of teachers at the pre-tertiary level and has been granted the concession of utilizing the "check-off" system in collecting membership subscriptions.
An Act of Parliament (Act 506, 1995) that set up the Ghana Education Service Council, Clause16 (1) provides that:
"The organization called Ghana National Association of Teachers has been formed to seek and promote, in accordance with law, the interests and well-being of members"
In 1994, the Ghana National Association of Teachers decentralized its administration to give a measure of autonomy to local branches to manage their own affairs.
According to Garbutt (1985), the reason of creating a local authority is to clarify lines of management with a fuller knowledge of conditions in their areas"
However, in spite of decentralization, the National Secretariat of the GNAT still co-ordinates and monitors the programmes and activities of all branches to ensure conformity and fairness at all levels of the Association.