UK offers teachers in Zimbabwe, South Africa R245 000 to relocate
By Norman Cloete, Baldwin Ndaba, Karishma Dipa, Sameer Naik and Shaun Smillie | Saturday Star |
The British department of Education is offering international relocation payments of £10 000 pounds (about R243 400) to foreign physics and language teachers. This relocation payment is to cover their visa and moving expenses.
The UK’s “The Times” newspaper said teachers from Ghana, India, Singapore, Jamaica, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa were to benefit due to historical education links with Britain.
To qualify the teacher must have a degree, a recognised teacher-training qualification and at least a year’s experience. They also need to be able to speak English to an undergraduate level. Between 300 and 400 payments are expected to be made to new teachers as they start the next academic year in September.
The new teachers who have been recruited will have the same status to those with qualifications from Europe, Australia and New Zealand who head to the UK to work. The scheme is likely to be expanded in the coming years with hundreds of maths, science and language teachers expected to be recruited.
The announcement in the UK comes as the South African educational system is in crisis.
Poor pass rates, overcrowded classrooms and low literacy rates have plagued local classrooms over the last few years.
However the Department of Basic Education welcomed the UK teacher recruitment drive, saying that there is currently an oversupply of teachers in the country.
“If there are opportunities elsewhere in the world we would urge qualified educators to take those opportunities rather than sit at home and do nothing,” said the spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga.
“Also, if our teachers are considered for these international opportunities we view it as a vote of confidence in our education system.”
However, the problem, says the union the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) , is that there is an artificial surplus of teachers in the country.
“It is short sighted, there appears to be a surplus. But it’s not a complete surplus, because there are shortages in some areas and and surpluses in others,” said executive Director of Naptosa Basil Manuel. There are shortages of Junior Primary teachers and teachers of the vernacular.”
He added that while there was a supposed surplus, the Department of Education had not got the ratio of teachers to pupils right and this was causing overcrowding in classrooms. It was also adding to the recently highlighted problem of literacy.
A recent report by the 2030 Reading Panel had shown that 82% of Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning.
“One of the real problems is that you have classes that are too large in the junior primary and teachers can’t get to the children who need assistance,” Manuel explained.
He pointed out that the government spends money on training teachers.
“We spend billions training these people and we have to ensure that we try to keep them here.”
Education specialist Professor Mary Metcalfe said she wasn’t surprised by the UK’s efforts to recruit teachers globally.
“The teacher shortage globally means there are also initiatives to recruit from North America as well as the UK. I have no doubt that our teachers in South Africa are good enough to teach anywhere around the globe.”
Another teaching union, like the Department of Basic Education, saw the opportunity of South African teachers to work in the UK as a good thing.
“It may assist those unemployed teachers who may be absorbed in the system. They are not employed due to austerity measures by the government. The system cannot absorb them,” the South African Democratic Teachers Union media officer, Nomusa Cembi said.
The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) also said it was not particularly concerned about the country’s teachers leaving to work in the UK.
Isasa CEO Lebogang Montjane said this has been a regular practice for many of South Africa’s teachers in the past which often proved to benefit the country in the long run.
“South Africa is a great source of teaching talent around the world, including Dubai, Asia, the US, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, so this is just one of the UK’s ways to differentiate themselves from other competitive markets,” he told “The Saturday Star”.
Montjane added that many teachers have spent time working abroad and have returned to teach in South Africa.
“Many young people want to go out and see the world and we encourage them to do so, but you won’t find much evidence of the UK having a better education system than South Africa.”