Picture: SUPPLED
Picture: SUPPLED

A plan for teachers to re-register with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) has run into union opposition, with claims it would tamper with conditions of service, the organisation told parliament on Tuesday. 

SACE currently registers teachers on a once-off basis, effectively giving them a certificate for life. This means teachers who are struck off the register for misconduct maintain their certificates, and robs SACE of a means to ensure teachers maintain their professional development.

It also limits the value of its database as a planning tool, as it contains teachers who are no longer teaching.

SACE now wants to introduce a system that requires teachers to re-register every three years, linked to a requirement that they earn at least 150 ‘‘continuing professional teacher development’’ points during this period. SACE is proposing teachers get a one-year grace period, after which they will be suspended said its CEO Ella Mokgalane.

“It will be easy to certify the newly qualified. The challenge is with the bulk who see a bit of a threat,” she told parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education. “The unions are saying ‘You are tampering with our conditions of service.’ With more consultation, we will be able to bring them on board.” 

Mokgalane made it clear that SACE could not implement teacher re-registration without the buy-in of unions. “We need to be sure we don’t de-stabilise the system. Until we agree within the profession on the issue of re-certification, we won’t move. Out of the consultation sessions we had, we are beginning to slowly settle some of the sticky issues,” she told MPs.

SACE’s target date for implementation is 2020, she said. From 2019, SACE will require police clearance to register newly qualified teachers, she said. “But we still need to settle what to do with teachers in the system. Our target date for that is 2020.” 

Mokgalane said SACE had identified 98 stakeholder groups, half of which had already been consulted. MPs also heard from the department of basic education’s Gerrit Coetzee, who briefed them on the Funza Lukasha teaching bursary scheme.

He said the scheme had seen a surge in applicants since former president Jacob Zuma’s announcement of free higher education last year, which took effect in January.

The bursary scheme’s capacity to select the right, aspirant teachers was evident in its throughput rate, Coetzee said. Analysis of the scheme between 2007 and 2012 found 81% of the students completed a four-year bachelor of education degree in four years. “It means our criteria for selection is contributing to a better calibre of student at university.”