Johannesburg – A whopping 57193 permanent teachers resigned between January 2012 and December last year in what unions have lamented as a worrying brain drain for the vital education sector.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed the number of teachers who had resigned in response to a parliamentary question asked by the DA’s Nomsa Tarabella-Marchesi.
“The unusually high numbers of resignations were recorded in 2014 and 2015,” said Moshekga. These resignation figures were 11375 and 9310 respectively.
“This coincided with the period in which there was uncertainty relating to the changes in pension dispensation,” said Motshekga.
“However, it should be noted that as at February 2020, about 17800 of the educators who resigned, were back.”
Motshekga’s explanation of the 2014 and 2015 resignations does little to trivialise the number of exits during the other years.
The last year saw 6505 permanent teachers resigning, 1654 of which were from Gauteng, 1376 from KwaZulu-Natal and 972 from the Western Cape.
In a country with 410 000 public school teachers, no year since 2012 has had less than 5000 teacher resignations.
In 2018, there were 6321 who quit, 1611 from Gauteng and 1235 from KZN.
A total of 6794 resigned in 2017, with Gauteng recording 1768 and KZN 1379.
All other provinces recorded resignations between 2012 and 2019.
Apart from the 2014 and 2015 figures, Limpopo experienced its highest exits in 2016, with 572 resignations.
The Eastern Cape recorded its highest resignations in 2018 when 728 served out their notice period.
Unions told The Star there was a worrying trend of teachers taking the hard decision to resign when their pay no longer met their needs.
“Teachers are resigning because of low salaries,” said National Teachers Union (Natu) president Allen Thompson.
He said teachers’ pay did not grow significantly over time.
“They can’t all be promoted to top posts within the schools. So not only are salaries low, chances of being promoted are also low.”
The cost of living starts catching up with teachers, most of whom married fellow teachers, when their children matriculate and have to go to university, he said.
“Your children can’t get funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme because they are from families earning R350 000 per annum.
“Families end up taking a decision that one teacher must resign so they could have money (from the pension) to take children to university.”
He said they resigned “hoping that they’ll be re-employed” but this was becoming difficult as provinces preferred employing entry-level graduates.
“As a result we’re losing the cream of the crop of teachers, teachers with years of experience,” Thompson added.
Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, echoed Thompson’s sentiments.
“Most can’t afford their children’s university fees so they resign. As a union we’ve pleaded with people to rather take loans.”
Thousands failed to find re-employment and took up jobs abroad.
“It’s a serious loss to the country. Remember, it’s expensive to train a teacher,” said Manuel.
Thompson decried that a presidential remuneration review commission former president Jacob Zuma announced in 2013 to probe teachers’ pay and their conditions of employment did not take off.
Zuma initially appointed former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo as commission chairperson.
Ngcobo resigned from the commission in 2015 and Zuma replaced him with Judge Khayelihle Kenneth Mthiyane. Nothing was heard of the commission after his appointment.
Thompson said many teachers continued to wait in hope that their salaries would be looked into.
But Marchesi said she did not find the resignation trend worrying.
“I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about,” she told The Star.
“Besides the 11000 who left in 2014, it shows there are about 5000 teachers resigning each year.
“It’s 1% of teachers resigning each year. I’m not concerned.”
By Bongani Nkosi