Education International
Education International

Africa: EFA threatened by teacher shortage

published 13 March 2008 updated 13 March 2008

A critical shortage of properly trained and qualified teachers is threatening the achievement of Education for All 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 written by Dennis Sinyolo, EI Coordinator, Education and Employment Unit, who visited the Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in the course of his research. It focuses on five major issues, namely, teacher supply, teacher attrition, teacher pay and motivation, teacher absenteeism and union involvement in policy development. “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,” says Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary. The study reveals that four of the six countries surveyed have a serious shortage of qualified teachers at both primary and secondary levels. Gambia, Lesotho, Tanzania and, to some extent, Uganda have not succeeded in providing adequate pre-service training facilities to meet demand, current and future. They have failed to significantly increase the numbers of teachers 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. Concerning teachers’ salaries, the study shows that they are generally below the poverty line or cost of living. 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. And many schools do not provide decent accommodation for teachers. 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. Brain drain, mainly due to low salaries and poor conditions of service, also exacerbates the high level of teacher attrition. As a result, teaching has become a stepping stone or a profession of last resort in all six 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 status of the teaching profession in all six countries in order to recruit young people into the profession and retain current teachers.

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 25, February/March 2008.