South Africa is in desperate need of qualified maths, science and technology teachers

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

South Africa is experiencing a massive shortage of mathematics, science and technology teachers, and government has embarked on a massive drive to encourage people to enter this profession.

In a Sowetan article earlier this year, veteran mathematics, science and technology teacher Masilu Modiba said teaching is more of a calling than a career.

"Teachers are people who show an uncompromising dedication to building a winning nation through public education and training," he said

Last week education minister Naledi Pandor said the department would be sourcing teachers in this field from South Africa and abroad to boost tuition at the country's 6000 high schools.

"If we don't have these teachers in our country, we must get teachers from outside," Pandor said. "We can't have any high school without these teachers."

The Gordon Institute of Business Science estimates that South Africa needs 21000 new teachers each year, but that only 5000 are currently entering the profession annually.

Lucky Buthelezi, a mathematics teacher at Reashoma Secondary School in Protea North Soweto, says teaching has undergone tremendous changes over the years, especially with the change in government.

"There have been both good and bad changes," Mazibuko says. "With new changes in teaching methods we are able to get more feedback from students. It is no longer a one-way street where the teacher is the custodian of knowledge.

"Today students are given more freedom to ask questions and learning to be interpretative in their involvement. We are trying to create more innovative and interpretative minds. The only problem is that of pay and equipment, especially here in the townships."

The average teacher's salary is R100000 a year, or just over R8000 a month, according to the S A Democratic Teachers' Union. Last year the government allocated R4,2billion to improve teachers' salaries and announced in this year's budget that it planned on spending a further R14,3billion on education.

"There is still a shortage of resources in our schools," says Mazibuko. "We approached the department of education, and they don't get back to us. Our labs are not well equipped and books in the library are outdated."

However, township schools have found ways to survive. "We manage to raise funds through picnics and events such as the Valentines Day bash that we had earlier this year, but it's not enough. We still need assistance from the parents," says Mazibuko.

Despite the neglect of township schools, teachers such as Mazibuko and Madibo have decided to stay in the profession and develop young minds.

"I'm very optimistic about the future of our schools. We as teachers need to be more enthusiastic and motivate young people to realise why mathematics and science can be of benefit to them," Mazibuko says. "If we make it more interesting and show them just how much these things affect their daily lives they might be much more motivated."