Growing teacher shortage

The incorporation of teacher training colleges into the tertiary system will add to the shortage of educators in the country, writes Edwin Naidu

The closure of 105 teacher training colleges and the merger of certain institutions within universities and technikons will have serious repercussions for the profession in the long term, warns Johannesburg College of Education rector Graham Hall.

He says the streamlined 30 providers of teacher training, now located in higher education institutions, have to produce at least 1 000 graduates each year, but indications are that they are lagging behind.

According to data from the Multi-Site Teacher Education Research group, of 17 universities that had incorporated colleges of education, a total of about 1900 first-year students had enrolled to study teaching this year.
Only five years ago, the country had 100 000 pre-service student teachers in post- school education.

The closure of colleges and subsequent amalgamation of institutions into the tertiary system was completed in February.

Hall says the drop in the number of colleges means that the expected output from the 30 providers has to be much higher.

“The situation is a disaster. We are staring down the barrel of a gun. I don’t think anyone understands what it (the closure and incorporation process) means,” he says. However, Hall adds that the closure and incorporation of colleges is necessary because teacher training belongs in higher education and many institutions, especially in rural areas, are dysfunctional.

But he says the process is disjointed and lacks cohesion, citing the fact that several former homeland universities have to add teacher training to their operations when they are battling to survive.

Hall adds that the teacher training providers are losing students, many of whom are dying through HIV/Aids-related illnesses.

Adding considerable pressure to a weakened system, is the exodus of South African educators abroad.

“We should be retaining every teacher. The youngsters or newly qualified people going abroad is an indication of the lack of posts available locally,” he says.

The teacher shortage in South Africa is part of a global problem that came under the spotlight at a world conference organised by Education International (EI) last month.

Fred van Leeuwen, general-secretary of EI, said the world is rapidly running out of teachers.

“While in many industrialised nations the profession is ageing due to insufficient inflow of young people, in most low-income countries the recruitment of teachers does not keep pace with increasing school enrolment.”

He added there were teacher shortages in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands. In many cases, governments were resorting to unconventional measures to overcome these shortages, including reducing school weeks from five to four days, paying fees to private agencies for recruiting teachers and allowing unqualified persons to teach.

- The Teacher/M&G Media, Johannesburg, August 2001.

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