Michelle Jones

NEW teachers need to be aggressively recruited and produced because teacher migration is debilitating education in SA, new research has shown.

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 it had been estimated that SA loses about 4 000 teachers each year to emigration.

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

There are 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.

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

De Villiers said foreign countries tended to recruit newly qualified teachers, the best and brightest, and those who taught scarce subjects.

He said teacher loss in SA was due to attrition, career change and massive recruitment by foreign countries.

De Villiers was unable to provide any statistics on the number of teachers who migrate and where they go to.

“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 sciences and chemistry), and all posts in special-needs schools.”

Factors pushing teachers out of SA were:

l Career dissatisfaction; and

l Low salaries; and

l Unemployment.

Factors pulling teachers to other countries were:

l Higher salaries; and

l Professional development; and

l Travel opportunities; and

l Friends and family overseas; and

lRecruitment agency persuasion.

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

l Recruit retired and unemployed subject experts; and

l Have a compulsory one-year internship after graduation; and

l Make more bursary schemes available for prospective student teachers; and

l Monitor teacher recruitment agencies closely; and

l Eliminate negative perceptions about the teaching profession; and

l Improve teachers’ work conditions.

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

“South Africa needs to produce some 15 000 more teachers per year to reach the necessary annual number of 25 000 new teachers,” it said.

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