New teachers must be aggressively recruited and trained since the migration of teachers is debilitating education in SA, new research shows.

Rian de Villiers, from the University of Pretoria’s faculty of education, said in a new research report, “South African teacher migration: an issue for political debate, that 4 000 teachers were emigrating each year.

This reinforced an earlier study on the migration of teachers, compiled by the South African Council of Educators, which found that in KwaZulu-Natal 27 percent of newly qualified teachers admitted to having plans to teach abroad.

Factors which appeared to be pushing teachers out of SA were:

- Career dissatisfaction.

- Low salaries.

- Unemployment.

Meanwhile, the factors attracting teachers to other countries included:

- Higher salaries.

- Professional development.

- Travel opportunities.

- Friends and family overseas.

- Recruitment agency persuasion.

De Villiers has called for the Basic Education Department to take drastic steps and employ strategies to train more primary school teachers, particularly those who could work in rural and impoverished areas, and those who specialised in scarce subjects.

There were about 5 400 teachers working in SA from foreign countries, mainly Zimbabwe. But this, De Villiers said, was like putting a plaster over the problem.

“SA is funding the training of teachers who serve in other countries. The shortage of teachers remains a great concern for SA.

“SA has a shortage of mathematics, science and language teachers in both urban and rural public schools.

“The supply of newly qualified teachers is substantially less than the number of teaching posts that become vacant each year.”

In KZN, the Education Department has previously attributed the large number of unqualified and underqualified teachers in the province to supply and demand struggles. These are teachers who have a qualification in the subject they teach, but no theoretical teaching training, or teachers who only have a matric certificate to their name, although they are enrolled for tertiary study.

The department has frequently said the number of teachers churned out by higher education was less than needed.

It said it lost about 5 000 teachers due to retirement, resignations and death, but these were replaced by a mere 800 or so newly qualified teachers from universities.

The latest University of Pretoria study found that foreign countries tended to recruit newly qualified teachers; the best and brightest and those who taught scarce subjects.

De Villiers said that the loss of teachers in SA was a result of attrition, career change and massive recruitment by foreign countries.

He was unable to provide any statistics on the number of teachers who migrate and where they go to as there were no available statistics.

“The Department of Basic Education does not have such a database. South African teachers migrate to Taiwan, Thailand, China and Singapore to teach English. South African teachers in special education needs subjects and teachers trained in mathematics and sciences are still popular in the UK.

“The newest UK shortage list includes secondary education teachers in the subjects of maths and pure sciences (physical science and chemistry), and all posts in special needs schools.”

De Villiers said there were a number of steps that could be taken to resolve the shortage of teachers in SA. These included:

l Recruiting retired and unemployed subject experts.

l Having a compulsory one-year internship after graduation.

l Making more bursary schemes available for prospective student teachers.

l Monitoring teacher recruitment agencies closely.

l Eliminating negative perceptions about the teaching profession.

l Improving teachers’ working conditions.

A report released last year by the Centre for Development and Enterprise said that SA was producing too few teachers, especially in key subjects such as maths and science.

“SA needs to produce 15 000 more teachers per year to reach the necessary annual number of 25 000 new teachers. The teacher-age profile suggests a looming shortage, and a growing need for greater numbers of younger teachers.”

According to the Department of Basic Education, about 6 000 new teachers qualify each year.