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.

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