Sunday Times

Why teach­ers are head­ing to Abu Dhabi

Lured to Abu Dhabi by good money there and tough times here

- By SUTHENTIRA GOVEN­DER Society · Middle East News · Abu Dhabi · United Arab Emirates · KwaZulu-Natal · Nicole Miller · Cape Town · United Kingdom · University of KwaZulu-Natal

● The prospect of earn­ing the equiv­a­lent of five years’ salary in one year is lur­ing South African teach­ers to class­rooms in the Gulf.

But apart from the pos­si­bil­ity of earn­ing be­tween R50,000 and R78,000 a month, teach­ers are also be­ing driven from SA by the high crime rate, re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance, race­based poli­cies, bur­geon­ing class sizes and work­loads and an in­ef­fec­tive cur­ricu­lum.

They are end­ing up, in the main, in Abu Dhabi, cap­i­tal of the United Arab Emi­rates.

A study of the trend by Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Na­tal master’s stu­dent Ta­tum Niemack cites fi­nan­cial, re­li­gious, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal rea­sons for it.

There are no sta­tis­tics read­ily avail­able for the num­ber of teach­ers who have left, but the South African Coun­cil of Ed­u­ca­tors (Sace), which is­sues teach­ers with the let­ters of pro­fes­sional stand­ing needed to teach abroad, ex­pressed “grave con­cern”.

“This has im­pli­ca­tions for the brain drain and is leav­ing the coun­try in short sup­ply of the valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence and good teach­ers,” said Sace spokesper­son Them­binkosi Ndhlovu.

“Teach­ers, es­pe­cially ex­pe­ri­enced ones, leav­ing the pro­fes­sion is not good for the coun­try as in­vested knowl­edge and skills are needed.”

Ni­cole Miller, from SA-re­cruit­ment, a Cape Town teacher-place­ment agency, said close to 80 teach­ers had been re­cruited through the agency for Abu Dhabi posts in the past two years alone.

Niemack, her­self a mi­grant teacher who has been teach­ing in Abu Dhabi since 2014, said: “A higher salary was a sig­nif­i­cant pull fac­tor to Abu Dhabi as it has the po­ten­tial to eco­nom­i­cally em­power teach­ers to pur­chase prop­erty, pay for their chil­dren’s ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, build up their pen­sions, save and en­joy a bet­ter qual­ity of life.”

One teacher was quoted in Niemack’s study as say­ing: “So let’s say they kick me out and I have one year’s salary there [Abu Dhabi], that means I would have had to work five years in SA to earn this, so that gives me four years to get an­other job.”

The study found Abu Dhabi’s salary pack­ages are more lu­cra­tive than those in the UK, which used to at­tract many South African teach­ers with in­cen­tives such as “dis­count shop­ping cards, free in­ter­net and gift vouch­ers”.

“Sim­i­lar ben­e­fits were of­fered to South African teach­ers re­cruited to Abu Dhabi, with salary of­fers rang­ing from $3,500 (about R50,000) to $5,500 a month, de­pend­ing on the teacher’s years of ex­pe­ri­ence and qual­i­fi­ca­tion,” Niemack’s study says.

As well as top-notch salaries, teach­ers are pro­vided with hous­ing, med­i­cal in­sur­ance and flight al­lowances for the teacher, spouse and up to three chil­dren. A month’s salary is of­fered as a bonus for every year of ser­vice, re­ceived at the end of the con­tract pe­riod.

“Pre­vi­ously teach­ers were of­fered twoyear con­tracts. How­ever, this has re­cently been ex­tended to three years and at the end of the ini­tial con­tract teach­ers may re­new on a yearly ba­sis.”

Said Miller: “Most of the can­di­dates who ap­ply with our agency re­quest to teach in Abu Dhabi specif­i­cally. The draw­cards would have to be the tax-free salaries which can range from $2,500 to $4,000-plus … this all de­pends on ex­pe­ri­ence and qual­i­fi­ca­tions.”

The Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Teach­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion of SA (Nap­tosa) is also con­cerned about the teacher ex­o­dus.

“Be­ing English-speak­ing, our teach­ers find em­ploy­ment eas­ily abroad. Of­ten these are good teach­ers feel­ing badly treated by the sys­tem ei­ther [be­cause of a lack of] pro­mo­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties, vi­o­lence not [be­ing] ad­dressed or sim­ply just bad teach­ing con­di­tions,” said Basil Manuel, Nap­tosa’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

“We don’t be­lieve the gov­ern­ment sees this as a prob­lem. There have been no at­tempts in any prov­ince to ad­dress the exit. No co­her­ent strat­egy ex­ists,” said Manuel.

The de­part­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion said it had no in­for­ma­tion about teach­ers leav­ing the coun­try but in terms of re­ten­tion had con­tin­u­ous ini­tia­tives “to im­prove the con­di­tions of ser­vice for ed­u­ca­tors and par­tic­u­lar the salaries”.

 ??  ?? Master’s stu­dent Ta­tum Niemack.
Master’s stu­dent Ta­tum Niemack.

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