Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Department juggles teacher numbers

South Africa is projected to have a surplus of 81 725 teachers by 2020.

This is according to one supply-demand model, which forecasts that there will be 664 281 teachers in the system in four years time but the country will need only 582 556.

A second model based on a different data set predicts that there could be an overall shortfall of just under 20 000 teachers. Unlike the first model, this model does not factor in unemployed, immigrant, late joining and returning teachers.

Based on the second model, four provinces could potentially face teacher shortages. Gauteng was likely to have 25 499 fewer teachers, Mpumalanga 7 862, Northern Cape 4 433 and Eastern Cape 3 954.

The scenarios are based on a detailed analysis conducted by the department of higher education and training to provide a picture of teacher education and the prevailing teacher supply-demand scenarios.

According to the working document titled Relationships Between Teacher Supply and Demand, the supply for the first model would include 423 618 existing teachers, 139 023 new teacher graduates, 84 140 “delayed joiners” (qualified teachers who first followed other career paths) and returning teachers who were either unemployed or working in other sectors, and 17 500 migrants.

Although the study concluded that the two models showed that there would be “no absolute shortage” of teachers by 2020, it elaborated that “relative shortages may still exist in terms of sufficient numbers of teachers to teach specific phases or subjects or relative shortages experienced in specific provinces or within provinces”. A random survey by the Mail & Guardian of first-year students applying to study the four-year teaching degree next year found that there were 92 815 applications for 9 414 places at 12 contact universities.

Nic Spaull, an education researcher at Stellenbosch University, said matrics could be opting for teaching because of the availability of the Funza Lushaka bursaries. The scheme for trainee teachers accounted for the funding of about a quarter of all students registered for the teaching degree at 21 universities.

“So if they cannot get funding for other courses and cannot afford to pay the fees then teaching can be their only option.”

Although Rej Brijraj, chief executive of the South African Council for Educators, welcomed the increase in the number of matrics applying to study teaching, he said there was a need for more qualified teachers in specific areas.

Universities attracting the highest number of applications included the University of Johannesburg, 20 500 for 720 places; the University of the Witwatersrand, 15 380 for 551 places; the University of KwaZulu-Natal, 13 700 for 800 places; and the University of Limpopo, 12 000 for 600 places.

Unisa, which is the largest producer of teachers in the country, received 42 939 applications.

Professor Veronica McKay, executive dean of the College of Education at Unisa, said there was an emerging trend for former model C and private schools to enrol especially black African trainee teachers for a teaching qualification through the university. “These schools want to get involved in the training of their future staff.”

Nationally, there were 20 698 new teacher graduates last year.

According to the department of higher education’s study, it has become “glaringly clear” that universities were focusing on producing schoolteachers.

Whitfield Green, chief director of teaching and learning development in the department of higher education, said they were planning a study that will assess the extent of teacher demand with respect to specific subjects where greater demand may exist, in order to inform the new student enrolment plan.

“The current five-year [student] enrolment plan for universities comes to an end in 2019. We want the new enrolment plan to address teacher supply and demand at the subject level. This will mean prioritising enrolments in specific teaching subject areas.”

He said many more African teachers as well as more females than males were graduating.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Prega Govender
Prega Govender is the Mail & Guardians education editor. He was a journalist at the Sunday Times for almost 20 years before joining the M&G in May 2016. He has written extensively on education issues pertaining to both the basic and higher education sectors.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Steel strike: Workers struck while the iron was hot

After almost three weeks, labour and employers have reached a deal — setting the steel industry back on its path to recovery

Why handing over ICC suspects could help Sudan’s transition

A failed coup in September, weeks of brinkmanship, and a looming crisis in eastern Sudan have laid bare tensions between civilians and military leaders

Phoenix activist takes on Durban’s politically connected in November polls

Independent candidates look set to play a greater role in the metro municipality after 1 November

Libyan town clings to memory of Gaddafi, 10 years on

Rebels killed Muammar Gaddafi in his hometown of Sirte on 20 October 2011, months into the Nato-backed rebellion that ended his four-decade rule

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…