Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA/DAILY DISPATCH
Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA/DAILY DISPATCH

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has called on the government to incentivise teachers better so that large numbers opt to teach in rural areas.

Sadtu’s 250,000 members constitute about 70% of the teaching workforce in SA, making it one of the country’s most powerful unions.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said in an interview with Business Day on Sunday that one of the key issues raised at the union’s national general council was the lack of teachers in rural areas.

It did not make sense for the government not to incentivise teachers to leave the comforts of urban life in order to teach in rural areas, Maluleke said.

SA has a teacher shortage in general, but this is compounded in rural areas, where infrastructure is severely limited.

Sadtu secretary in Mpumalanga Walter Hlaise said that although resolutions had previously been taken to seek incentives for teachers in rural areas, little action had been taken by the employer — the state.

"We are constantly frustrated at the bargaining chamber level by this issue," he said.

Maluleke said one suggestion was to exempt teachers in rural schools from certain taxes.

Sadtu said it would also focus its energy on decolonising the curriculum from the foundation phase stage.

Sadtu secretary in Gauteng Tseliso Ledimo said it was important for the curriculum to change to meet the needs of South Africans.

Maluleke said the introduction of African languages into the curriculum was a critical first step in the process.

Department of Basic Education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said that the issue of incentivising teachers for deployment to rural areas was a continuing discussion that had been on the negotiating table for a while.

The department had made efforts to tackle this by offering allowances to interested teachers, Mhlanga said. Often, however, teachers who took the allowance and relocated to rural areas were quick to rescind their decision and many had soon returned to urban areas.

"We have limited resources and money won’t solve all problems," Mhlanga said. But the department was willing to continue discussions on how to supply rural schools with quality teachers, he added.

For now, the department had roped in education nongovernmental organisation Teach SA to recruit young graduates for placement in rural schools, where they were needed most.

gumedem@businesslive.co.za

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