Education International
Education International

Africa: New EI study pinpoints teacher shortage as a major threat to EFA

published 13 December 2007 updated 13 December 2007

A critical shortage of properly trained and qualified teachers is threatening the achievement of Education for All targets and Millennium Development Goals by 2015, according to a new study by Education International.

‘Teacher Supply, Recruitment and Retention in 6 Anglophone Sub-Saharan African Countries’ was conducted by EI in The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in September 2007. It focuses on five major issues, namely, teacher supply, teacher attrition, teacher pay and motivation, teacher absenteeism and union involvement in policy development.

The study reveals that four of the six countries involved in the survey (Gambia, Lesotho, Tanzania and, to some extent, Uganda) have a serious shortage of qualified teachers at both primary and secondary levels. For example, in 2006, 44% of the primary school teachers and 42% of the secondary school teachers in Lesotho were unqualified.

These countries have not succeeded in providing adequate pre-service training facilities to meet demand, current and future. Kenya and Zambia do not have adequate numbers of teachers in their schools (evidenced by high pupil-teacher ratios) yet they have many qualified teachers who are unemployed. These countries have failed to significantly increase their teacher stock due to budgetary considerations and agreements reached with international financial institutions. Teacher shortages seem to be more acute in remote rural areas and in special subject areas, such as mathematics and science.

The average rate of teacher attrition in the six countries is 4%. Most of the attrition is attributed to retirement, resignations, death and dismissals. Many respondents felt that death due to AIDS related illnesses has contributed to the high level of teacher attrition, especially in Lesotho and Zambia. Brain drain has also contributed to the high level of teacher attrition in Zambia, particularly at secondary level. Low salaries and poor conditions of service are the main cause of brain-drain.

The survey reveals that teachers’ salaries are generally below the poverty line or cost of living. Conditions of service are also poor. Many schools do not have accommodation, or adequate accommodation for teachers.

The situation is even worse for unqualified teachers, most of whom earn between 40 and 60% of the salary of the lowest paid qualified teacher. The low salaries and terrible conditions of service have contributed to a general decline in the status of the teaching profession in all six countries.

As a result, teaching has become a stepping stone or a profession of last resort in these countries. For example, in Tanzania, some teachers discourage their own children from taking up teaching as a career. There is an urgent need to improve the teachers’ conditions of service in order to make the teaching profession more attractive.

All the countries surveyed, except Kenya, did not have effective collective bargaining structures in place. For example, in The Gambia, the salaries of teachers and other civil servants are determined by a government commission, while in Tanzania they are usually determined by the country’s political leadership. Although the study reveals that most of the unions are consulted by their governments on education policy issues, the process of engagement is not usually institutionalized.

Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary, said: “The findings of the study reaffirm the need for EI to continue to lobby governments, UNESCO, the World Bank, the IMF, UNICEF and other UN agencies and organisations to support the training and recruitment of qualified teachers. Without them, we will not be able to provide the world’s children with access to quality and relevant public education for all.”

Van Leeuwen encouraged teachers’ unions in the six countries and others to study the report and to use it as an instrument to develop policies and as an advocacy tool.

For more information, please contact Dennis Sinyolo, EI Education and Employment Coordinator at dennis.sinyolo@ei-ie.org.