Many South African teachers have made the decision to quit their jobs and immigrate to the United Arab Emirates – this is according to research conducted by Tatum Niemack, a masters student from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the South African Council of Educators (Sace).
Many sectors have been affected by workers immigrating to foreign countries due to the lure of a better quality of life and a fatter paycheck. The education sector, however, is now struggling to put enough teachers into the classroom as a result of the high number of educators moving to other countries.
According to Niemack’s research, the reasons for this can be attributed to a number of factors, namely:
How much teachers get paid
Research has indicated that most South African teachers who immigrate end up living in Abu Dhabi, which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Here qualified teachers earn between R50 000 – R78 000 per month.
In South Africa, the average annual salary of a teacher amounts to R275 000 per year – this can be equated to R22 000 per month.
Teachers feel unsafe as schools become more dangerous
A recent spike in attacks on teachers have been reported across the country – and the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshega has confirmed this.
“It is extremely concerning and very disheartening. We have programs that we, on an on-going basis, are dealing with the department of police and the department of social development. It’s quite clear we have a big problem,” she said on CapeTalk. “There is a correlation between high levels of criminality in the community which is transported into schools. Guns come from communities; the knifing and the anger comes from communities. We as society need to sit down and say: ‘what more do we need to do to support our schools?”.
South Africa’s current climate as a whole
While the above-mentioned factors are the biggest contributors to teachers leaving the country, Niemack cites other factors such as South Africa’s high crime rates, race-based policies, ineffective curriculum and religious intolerance as well.
Sace has explained that it is difficult to quantify exactly how many teachers have left the country to teach elsewhere, but highlights that this has a detrimental effect on the current schooling system. “This has implications for the brain drain and is leaving the country in short supply of the valuable experience and good teachers. Teachers, especially experienced ones, leaving the profession is not good for the country as invested knowledge and skills are needed,” it said.
Niemack herself is a migrant teacher, and has been teaching in Abu Dhabi since 2014. “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,” she said.
Sace has also raised this topic with the Department of Education. “There was a time about a year or two ago where a number of teachers were resigning from the system. We raised concerns even back then on the number leaving and asked why they were leaving,” spokesperson Thembinkosi Ndhlovu said to EWN.