DA provincial education spokesperson Edmund van Vuuren said because the average age of teachers was 46, this would present “an enormous problem” in 10 years’ time.

AN astonishing new report has revealed South Africa produces only one third of the 2 000 new teachers the country needs every year and that the profession is increasingly losing its appeal for school leavers who are put off by the low salaries and poor image.

The report, titled “Value on the Classroom: The quantity and quality of South African Teachers”, was produced by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE).

Most disturbing is that the report says “a quarter or even more of all newly trained teachers do not take up teaching posts in South Africa’s schools”.

Although the findings are cause for concern, education officials in the Eastern Cape said they were not surprised by the figures.

The CDE is one of South Africa ’s leading development think tanks, focusing on critical national development issues and their relationship to economic growth and democratic consolidation.

CDE executive director Ann Bernstein said the country was producing too few teachers, especially in key subjects such as maths and science and the teacher age profile suggests a looming shortage and a growing need for younger teachers to enter the profession.

“Although the government has increased its bursaries for student teachers in the past few years, this is insufficient to meet the country’s needs.

“Far too few bursaries are being offered to talented potential teacher trainees. “The country needs several thousand new bursaries per annum for those prepared to study and teach in subjects [where skills are] scarce,” Bernstein said.

Although Rhodes University education faculty’s Professor George Euvrard concurred with the findings of the report, he did say he had noticed more students were beginning to show interest in a teaching qualification in the past year.

The reason, he said, was that they knew they would be welcomed into the job market.

“I think teaching is dependent on the economy of the time. The economy is in a downturn and this is a profession that offers job opportunities.”

However, he said there was a substantial shortfall in mother tongue Foundation Phase (Grade 1 to 3) teachers.

Euvrard said he had fewer black students than before.

“Twenty years ago we had a better demographic balance, but now there are more opportunities for black graduates in business and government.” The image of the teaching profession needed to be improved the way it had been in the UK “where perceptions have changed dramatically”.

East London education specialist Ken Alston said the Education Department in the Eastern Cape was “a shambles” and this could also deter school leavers from opting to become teachers.

“The kids who do well at maths and science would rather study medicine or business than teaching.”

Alston said it was crucial new teachers received special support during their first years in front of the blackboard in order to encourage them to remain in the profession.

He added many good teachers over the retirement age of 65 would happily return to teaching, but that the department refused to employ them.

DA provincial education spokesperson Edmund van Vuuren said because the average age of teachers was 46, this would present “an enormous problem” in 10 years’ time.

“We have an active shortage of teachers in critical subjects like maths, science, life sciences and second language English especially in our rural and remote areas.”

Van Vuuren said it was vital the Education Department reopened teacher training colleges in places like Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth and Alice because they taught students important basics like lesson design and classroom management.

Eastern Cape Education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani confirmed there were too few maths and science teachers in the province’s rural areas.

“Good maths and science teachers can pick and choose where they want to go.

“We can’t compel them to go to rural areas.”

Although the department’s Fundza Lushaka bursary scheme had already produced some graduates, there were still not enough teachers.

“Teaching does not have the same aura it used to have and it does not seem as attractive to pursue it.

“There is a perception it is not a well paying job, but the Education Department is trying again to improve salaries.”