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Provinces aren’t hiring enough teachers, despite a growing need and sufficient supply – Stellenbosch university report

Provinces aren’t hiring enough teachers, despite a growing need and sufficient supply – Stellenbosch university report
The wave of retired public-school teachers looms larger than ever. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

More than 28,000 public-sector teachers graduated in 2021, yet provinces only hired 14,522 graduates – even though South Africa is riding an unprecedented retirement wave of public-school teachers as it faces a growing school-age population. These are the recent findings from the first series of reports from the Teacher Demographic Dividend project released on 1 December, which was conducted by researchers at Stellenbosch University’s research on socioeconomic policy unit over the past three years.

The wave of retired public-school teachers looms larger than ever, as numbers reached 12,500 in 2021, compared with 7,800 in 2013. The wave is set to crash in 2029 when a peak of 17,300 are projected to retire, according to the Teacher Demographic Dividend project’s recent findings. 

The project, headed by professors Nic Spaull and Servaas van der Berg at Stellenbosch University, is set to run from 2022 to 2024 with the objective of studying the wave. 

“I think the most important thing to note is that while universities have been producing more teachers, provinces have not been hiring them,” Spaull told Daily Maverick.

(Graphic: The World Population Prospects 2019 of the United Nations)

“Around 2015 we hired 75% of teachers produced, but now provinces are only hiring 50%, despite the fact that more teachers are needed. So that means class sizes are rising.” 

Climbing class sizes 

Nearly half (49%) of publicly employed teachers in South Africa are aged 50 and above. Teachers are forced to retire at 60, and about half of the teachers leaving the public teaching sector retire below the age of 55, the report found.

There are many reasons behind retirement, ranging from women who leave the labour market to start families, to the pull of more financially attractive teaching options abroad or in the private schooling sector, and frustrations with teaching jobs. 

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To maintain the current number of teachers, South Africa will need to increase the number of graduates by 6,000.

It’s not an easy fix – the school-age population has increased between 2012 and 2021, with the learner-educator ratio shifting from 27:1 to 30:1 and set to increase even more as dropouts decrease and entry into Grade 12 increases. 

Where are the teachers?

Teaching graduates increased from 9,000 in 2010 to 28,000 in 2019 and are expected to increase by 200% in the next 10 years, said the report. 

Despite this increase, provinces have not been hiring more teachers – 28,335 graduated in 2021, yet provinces were only able to hire 14,524. 

Nic Spaull. (Photo: Supplied)

The inability to hire more teachers is largely due to constraints in the provinces. 

Salary notches of teachers shifted from a 1% increase to 1.5% after the bargaining council resolution 1 of 2018. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Half our teachers will retire by 2030 — what about those who’ll remain?

The average teacher earned about R42,668 per month in 2019, which places public teachers at the top 5% income distribution in South Africa. 

However, these salaries are growing at a faster rate than that which is being allocated to the education budget, making hiring more teachers a challenge, said the report. 

(Graphic: The World Population Prospects 2019 of the United Nations)

This has the greatest effect on no-fee and rural schools where there is a growing gap between increasing teacher retirements and stagnant hiring. 

“Provinces and national need to explain why provinces are not hiring and whether this is an active policy decision due to cost constraints or just an unintended consequence of budgets being cut,” said Spaull. DM/MC


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