As the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education reveals that as of last month there were still nearly 8 000 unqualified and under-qualified teachers in the province’s classrooms, education stakeholders argue that the situation is a consequence of the closure of training colleges.
In the face of teacher shortages, schools have acted out of desperation, they say, as it is estimated that only one out of every three people who studies education actually goes on to put chalk to blackboard.
Recently, Education MEC Senzo Mchunu conceded that teacher supply and capacity was one of his “big six” challenges, and that there were cases in which “a matriculant teaches another matriculant”.
Under-qualified teachers are those who have a diploma or degree in the subject they teach, but no pedagogical training.
Unqualified teachers, on the other hand, are those enrolled for tertiary studies.
According to the department, these teachers were obliged to register for the relevant qualification, and an instruction was given to all ward managers that no further such appointments were to be made unless authorised by the head of the department.
Professor Kobus Maree, of the University of Pretoria, suggested that it had been shortsighted for the government to have shut down teaching colleges “overnight”, as universities were not producing enough teachers to keep up with the demand. He estimated that only one out of every three people who studied education actually went on to teach.
Maree added that teachers whose CVs were lacking were more likely to be employed at rural and township schools, which serve “the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society”.
“It is unacceptable,” he said.
Edith Dempster, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that, while she was concerned that under-qualified teachers were teaching because they were unable to get employment elsewhere, she was more worried about the unqualified, who did not have a deep knowledge base.
“Two problems with the unqualified teachers are that not all of them meet university entrance requirements, and many live in rural areas without easy access to a university… The closure of colleges has (therefore) had a detrimental effect on access to teaching qualifications for young people,” she said.
Paul Colditz, head of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, said that, while the national natural attrition rate of teachers owing to deaths, resignations and retirement lay between 17 500 and 20 000 a year, he estimated the output of newly qualified teachers to number 9 000, at best.
“Twelve years ago all teachers’ training colleges (about 150) were either closed or incorporated into universities. Granted, some of these colleges were bad, but many of them were, in fact, excellent.
“The decision to close all the teachers’ training colleges was a national disaster.”
Colditz agreed with Maree that it was rural schools which struggled to attract quality teachers for maths, science, accounting, and even languages.
According to the department, it had 11 500 unqualified and under-qualified teachers in 2002. The province loses 5 000 teachers a year, compared with only 800 new recruits. - The Mercury