School books Picture: THINKSTOCK

The Department of Basic Education is stuck with more than 5,000 underqualified or unqualified teachers it cannot eliminate because of a tremendous shortage in teachers.

On Monday, department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga confirmed the figures, but said removing the unqualified teachers from the system would create a crisis.

Unqualified teachers were deemed to be those whose highest academic qualification was matric. They were allowed to teach only the subjects they passed in matric.

Underqualified teachers were those who had obtained post-matric qualifications, but have received fewer than three years of on-the-job training.

Mhlanga said teachers in this category created a poser for the department because they taught mathematics, the sciences and technology at all levels, as well as African languages, especially at foundation phase, making them crucial in the basic education system.

He also revealed these teachers were on the same salary scale as qualified colleagues.

"They are teaching in critical [areas] ... where there is a shortage [of teachers]," Mhlanga said.

Many of the unqualified teachers, in particular, had been in the system for years and had experience, but did not meet the minimum qualification requirements, so the government was encouraging them to improve their qualifications. Most of these teachers were based in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the provinces worst affected by shortages.

South African Democratic Teachers Union spokeswoman Nomusa Cembi said on Monday that the affected teachers were not to blame for not meeting the department’s qualifications threshold because many had been trained under the old apartheid system.

"It is up to [the] government to develop these teachers who have been in the system for a long time," Cembi said.

A Centre for Development and Enterprise report said that many South African teachers were ill-prepared for the profession, were not accountable and received insufficient support and training to equip them as competent teachers.

The centre recommended that the government provide high-quality training and meaningful professional support and development opportunities to teachers to enable them to improve their performance.

"Unless this happens, [teachers] cannot be held accountable for what they have never been taught or had the opportunity to learn," the report concluded.

South African Council for Educators acting CEO Ella Mokgalane conceded that there were challenges in professionalising teaching.

These included inadequate capacity and a failure to clarify and separate professional matters from employment and labour relations issues.


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