Home South African Union raises alarm over shortage of trained foundation-phase teachers

Union raises alarm over shortage of trained foundation-phase teachers

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The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA said that while the number of teachers being produced may balance out with the number of posts available, there is a shortage of Grade R to Grade 3 teachers who are specifically trained to teach the foundation phase.

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) said that while the number of teachers being produced may balance out with the number of posts available, there is a shortage of Grade R to Grade 3 teachers who are specifically trained to teach the foundation phase.

This is according to the executive director of Naptosa, Basil Manuel, who said the problem lies in that teachers entering the system are not always trained in the right subjects and phases.

“As a result, we find that when we focus specifically on the foundation phase, we have a lot of teachers trained for other phases who find themselves in the foundation phase.”

Manuel said not enough was being done to ensure that these teachers who are out of alignment are being skilled to reposition them to do the job.

Using the example of reading, Manuel said not every teacher can teach pupils to read because that is a specialised area.

“If we want to improve reading and prepare for mother-tongue instruction, we then need to sit up, pay attention and do something about it,” he said.

He added that there was a new impetus to see that mother-tongue instruction starts growing, but to achieve that there must be teachers in the foundation phase who can speak the various languages.

“If we are not training foundation phase teachers, how will we be able to train vernacular foundation phase teachers? And that is where our concerns lie.”

According to Manuel, students need to be directed to the areas where teachers are needed.

“We need higher education through the Department of Education to say ‘this is where the need is and this is where we will admit students in the universities’.

“At the moment there doesn’t seem to be complete co-ordination, there is a disjuncture … And unless we fix that, we are not going to fix where the gaps are,” he warned.

Nomarashiya Caluza, an SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary, said there are teacher shortages throughout the schooling system.

Caluza said primary schools were severely impacted by vacancies not being filled.

“The problem starts when people are not monitored whether they continue with those subjects. The trend that we have observed is that people switch to other streams during the second and third year at university,” she said.

Education expert Professor Labby Ramrathan, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said foundation phase teachers are being developed to meet the linguistic diversity needs of this phase of teaching.

“However, whether they are deployed within schools to teach their subject specialisation or not is largely determined by the circumstances within the respective schools.”

Ramrathan said more effort needs to be placed on recruiting students to be trained in the foundation phase of teaching, adding that the Funza Lushaka bursary scheme should be used as an instrument to recruit potential teachers for this need.

The national Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

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