Thousands of unqualified teachers are teaching SA children

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The names of 14 independent schools have been handed over to the authorities for alleged abuse of government subsidies.

JOHANNESBURG – There are currently 7,076 unqualified teachers on the education department’s payroll. These are teachers who have only a grade 12 qualification. There are also 2,642 under-qualified teachers in the country, who have completed matric and who only have one or two years of tertiary studies under their belts.

This was revealed in a reply to a question posed to the National Council of Provinces this week in response to a query from Congress of the People (Cope) member of parliament Swaphi Plaaitjie.

Education analyst Graeme Bloch told eNCA.com that the number, as a portion of the total number of around half a million teachers, was not significant. However, Bloch said it was still important to ensure teachers were appropriately qualified. “It is something we must worry about because we want our kids to get the best.  But at the same time we must understand that it&39;s 10,000 (unqualified or underqualified teachers) out of 400,000 teachers, so it’s a small number, but it’s a significant number."

Bloch said the situation was also up to the unions to rectify. "We see the Sadtu (SA Democratic Teachers Union) institute [and] the Curtis Mkondo institute, so the issue of self-development and of teaching better is something the teachers themselves have got to take responsibility for."

University not enough

Bloch added that university qualifications were not enough to ensure good pass marks. “We’ve got a lot of bad teachers who have managed to get themselves university degrees. That’s part of the problem. Our results at primary level are very poor despite the fact that [teachers&39;] qualifications have improved massively since 1994.”

Meanwhile, the Basic Education Department has said getting teachers qualified, many of whom have been in the system for decades, has not been an easy task.

Department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said: “The country had an option. Do we bring learners to the school to sit in an empty classroom where there is no teacher, or [can] you get somebody who can teach them and give support to that particular teacher? And we chose the latter option. Getting someone who can be in the classroom and at least teach learners and we then give support."

Lesufi added that the department had made considerable strides in the past two years, reducing the number of unqualified teachers by 3,000, from 10,219. 

According to departmental figures, in December 2011 there were 4,786 under-qualified teachers. Lesufi said the department was aiming to have between 80 percentage and 100 percentage of those who are currently unqualified, qualified within the next four years. The department currently paid for bursaries which allowed teachers to finish their education training, he said. 

“Check where we come from in 1994, out of almost 600,000 teachers that we have now, you’ve got less than 10,000 who are not appropriately qualified one way or another. And you [have] got almost 600,000 teachers in the teaching profession that are professionals. So to us it indicates the way we have moved,” he said.

KZN worst affected

Of all the provinces, KwaZulu Natal was the worst affected when it came to unqualified teachers. The province has hired more than 85 percent of all the unqualified teachers (6,050 with only matric). Lesufi said the province, which is largely rural, had difficulty recruiting qualified teachers.

Other issues exacerbating the problem was high absenteeism among teachers, sickness – meaning many temporary teachers are needed. However, it had plans in place to rectify this. “They have requested a four to five year period to eradicate the situation. But we insist, we believe within three years they can deal with the situation,” Lesufi said.

A new recruitment strategy

The Education Department started being more proactive when recruiting teachers, said Lesufi. “We have changed our strategy of recruitment in the [past] five years and it&39;s yielding dividends in the [past] five years.  We are competing with big companies for BSC (Bachelor of Science) graduates.”

“What we are doing now, we are no longer saying be a teacher and then give you a bursary. We target you. If there is a best student in science, who qualifies for BSC, we give you a bursary to do an extra year to be an educator. So, we are getting highly qualified educators in the [past] three or five years.”

The department also covers textbook and accommodation costs for the deserving candidates, he said.