Picture: Reuters/Issei Kato

While improved maths and science performance has been identified as the key to improving pupils’ after-school job chances and closing the country’s skills gap, 2 888 schools have a shortage of maths teachers and 2 669 need more teachers of physical science, according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

A total of 561 schools in KwaZulu-Natal needed additional maths teachers, with 557 needing maths literacy teachers and 508 indicating a need for more science teachers.

In written replies to parliamentary questions from DA MP Donald Smiles, Motshekga said 2 904 schools had indicated they needed extra maths literacy teachers.

Education department figures show that in 2010 there were 25 850 ordinary schools in South Africa, suggesting that more than 10 percent of schools have a teacher shortage in maths and science.

Motshekga said the survey had asked principals to indicate their need for qualified maths and science teachers.

“The school principals were asked how many qualified teachers for mathematics, mathematical literacy and physical science they would require.”

Motshekga said it was evident that, with the introduction of maths and maths literacy as compulsory subjects in the new curriculum, the demand for teachers in these subjects would escalate.

Earlier this month, during her department’s budget vote, Motshekga said the department was set to implement a new national strategy for maths, science and technology education.

Asked to lay out her department’s plans for producing more maths and science teachers, Motshekga said the department had, in 2007, initiated the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme to provide teachers in scarce skills across all learning areas and subjects.

Through this initiative, the department was recruiting BSc graduates specialising in maths and physical science.

“These graduates are encouraged to do a one-year post-graduate certificate in education, which is a professional teaching qualification.”

The minister said teacher recruitment was a long-term strategy of the department with regular reviews to monitor progress made in achieving goal 14 of the Action Plan to 2014 of “attracting in each year a new group of young, motivated and appropriately trained teachers into the teaching profession”.

Her department and the Department of Higher Education and Training had held a series of meetings and workshops, as had the nine provincial departments of education.

According to figures from a survey in 2008, the beleaguered Limpopo province has the greatest need.

This province had 852 schools indicating the need for additional maths teachers, 835 needing additional maths literacy educators and 822 calling for more science teachers.

In the Eastern Cape, which has also recently made headlines for its poor performance in education, 532 schools indicated they needed additional maths teachers, 486 said they needed maths literacy teachers and 454 needed additional science teachers.

A total of 248 Gauteng schools needed additional maths teachers, 272 needed extra maths literacy teachers, while 265 schools in the province needed extra science teachers.

In the Western Cape, 158 schools said they required extra maths teachers, 154 required extra maths literacy teachers and 149 needed more science teachers.