- New research looking into the large numbers of South African teachers leaving the education profession showed that a majority was dissatisfied with their job. Especially educators in the fields of technology, natural science and economy considered leaving the profession. Further, the survey found, the AIDS pandemic is taking a growing toll on South Africa's educators, deepening the sector's crisis.
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa has revealed the results of a study into the demand and supply of educators in the country's public schools. A "comprehensive survey" had looked into worrying anecdotal reports that indicated that educators seem to be leaving the education profession in large numbers. Some of the reasons that were suspected for this included low morale, job dissatisfaction, AIDS and premature mortality.
Researchers from several South African institutions produced seven reports, based on several surveys. According to the HSRC, the reports "largely confirm these anecdotal reports," demonstrating a growing crisis in South Africa's public education sector.
A national survey of 21,358 educators conducted by the HSRC had revealed that 55 percent of educators have considered leaving the education profession "due to inadequate remuneration, increased workload, lack of career development, professional recognition, dissatisfaction with work policies, job insecurity."
The study further revealed that two-thirds of educators who were considering leaving the education profession were in the scarce fields such as technology, natural sciences, economics and management. Reasons quoted include low job satisfaction, job stress and violence in schools.
Studying the factual educator attrition rates and trends in South Africa, researchers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal found that there was not a clear year-to-year growth in attrition. The national rate was 9.3 percent in 1997/98, declining to 5.5 percent in 2000/01, before rising again to 5.9 percent in 2002/03. The three largest causes of attrition were contract termination, resignation and mortality.
However, excluding contract termination, the proportion of attrition due to mortality (all causes) increased from 7.0 percent in 1997/98 to 17.7 percent in 2003/04. The proportion of attrition due to medical reasons grew from 4.6 percent to 8.7 percent over the same period. This increase was mainly attributed to the growing AIDS pandemic in South Africa.
A representative sample of 17,088 educators - who gave an oral fluid or blood specimen for HIV testing - showed that 12.7 percent are HIV positive. This was "not significantly different from that of the general population," the HSRC found. The analysis however confirmed "patterns of educator attrition and mortality consistent with the high levels of HIV-prevalence in South Africa," noted Peter Badcock-Walters of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
More than a fifth - 22.0 percent - of the HIV-positive educator population would need immediate antiretroviral therapy to secure their health and working ability, the studies concluded. This amounted to an estimated 10,000 of South Africa's 356,749 educators.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal study finally established that the total number of South African educators working in public schools has shrunk over the years. By 2002/03, around 21,000 educators were leaving the system annually. The average number of educators in the system has declined over the last seven years, from 386,735 to 368,548 in 2003/04, "largely due to a reduction in the number of temporary educators in the system."
The HSRC gave several recommendations to South Africa's national Department of Education. The employer should "reduce workload and manage job stress of educators," the Council said. Further, it should improve resource allocation to poorer schools, especially African schools, and provide psychosocial support for educators. Finally, "a comprehensive workplace health care programme" was needed, alongside with stronger HIV/AIDS policies and programmes.
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