Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

South African schools continue to struggle to fill thousands of vacancies for teachers, a trend which threatens to further scupper government’s efforts to improve educational outcomes.

Teacher shortages, especially in gateway subjects such as maths and science, are seen as a key contributor to SA’s poor educational outcomes.

On Tuesday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed in a reply to a question in Parliament from the DA that the country had a total of 15,888 teacher vacancies as at June 2017. The worst affected provinces were Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. Limpopo and the Eastern Cape have in recent years consistently underperformed and remained at the bottom of the class in terms of matric results.

Limpopo had almost 5,000 teacher vacancies, closely followed by the Eastern Cape with 2,182. Mpumalanga had just more than 2,000 vacancies.

Teacher unions have previously claimed that some schools were forced to hire anyone, including those without proper qualifications, because of teacher shortages in the country.

In May, Motshekga said the lack of sufficiently qualified and competent teachers remained a major problem in SA, with KwaZulu-Natal the worst affected province.

Motshekga said that on average about 60% of all unqualified and underqualified educators were appointed in KwaZulu-Natal’s rural districts such as Zululand, uThukela and uThungulu. SA has about 420,000 teachers.

Education analyst Graeme Bloch said the government had in recent years focused on building more schools and neglected the need to produce "high-calibre teachers".

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