SA teachers lured to the UAE
Salary, danger in the classroom cited
THE prospect of earning five times their salary, coupled with high workloads and increasing crime in South African schools, is driving local teachers to take up lucrative opportunities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
As part of a master’s degree in education, Tatum Niemack, a South African and migrant teacher, conducted research on the contributing factors that led to teachers venturing to the UAE; which has seven emirates that includes its capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
It revealed that teachers felt forced to leave because of low salaries, high crime, religious intolerance and race-based policies which “denied teachers and their families access to opportunities”.
The study also found additional factors included teachers feeling frustrated with class sizes, high workloads, lack of career progress, an ineffective curriculum, lack of learner discipline and poor school leadership and management.
According to the study, spousal influence was not a reason for migration, but it did emerge as a consideration, especially in terms of the degree to which the nature of hierarchical structures within the family and marriage influenced migrant teachers’ decision-making.
“If the current government focuses its attention and resources on the push factors that teachers face, it would have a significant impact on curbing migration. Such a scenario would greatly contribute to achieving the ideals envisioned for a democratic and prosperous South Africa,” said Niemack.
According to reports, the average South African teacher earned R275 000 a year compared to R750 000 for a teacher employed in the UAE.
And while the Department of Basic Education has agreed that skilled and experienced teachers are migrating, it says it is “not a problem”.
“We (still) have 410 000 teachers in our system. Every year we get approximately 33 000 graduates and many of them remain unemployed because we don’t have enough teaching posts available. With teachers migrating, it provides an opportunity for the graduates to find employment,” said its spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
He added that by teachers being accepted abroad, it showed the country had a good training programme and that there was still a fair amount of educators left behind to coach and mentor the new graduates.
However, this has not eased the concerns of the South African Council for Educators (Sace) and National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa).
The migration of teachers, said Sace spokesperson Themba Ndhlovu, had led to a short supply of valuable, experienced and good teachers.
“This is not good for the country as invested knowledge and skills are needed.”
While it was difficult to quantify how many teachers have sought opportunities outside South African borders, Ndhlovu said that they received several monthly requests for ‘letters of professional standing’.
It confirms if an individual is qualified as a primary or secondary school teacher.
“These letters are requested mainly by those taking up positions in the UAE or other countries.”
Other than lucrative salaries, safety played a major role in teachers opting to work abroad.
“Violence against teachers is spiralling out of control. They cannot do much to defend themselves against pupils, so when the opportunities abroad arises, they take it. The conditions in which they work is another factor as classes are large.”
Naptosa president Basil Manuel added that local teachers felt demotivated and neglected.
“Many don’t migrate only because of remuneration… Teachers are also leaving for a better quality of life and to provide better for their families.”
Tatum Niemack graduated with a master’s degree in education following a study of the reasons teachers leave South Africa.