Every year, the public schools' sector in South Africa loses between 18 000-22 000 educators. This is between 4.5%-5.5% of the overall educator population in the country. The consistent loss of educators is due to natural attrition, driven by resignations, retirements and deaths.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) says that while it noticed a notable increase in deaths during the height of Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers of teacher losses have remained relatively consistent.
The DBE explained, “On the whole, the numbers were still within the range in terms of the annual attrition rate experienced by the sector. Therefore, educators that the sector lost due to Covid-19 deaths were continuously being replaced as part of the overall replacement of educators due to natural attrition.”
Government has introduced several ongoing targeted programmes with the aim of ensuring the supply of teachers in areas of priority. Grade R and special needs education are part of these priority areas.
Provinces are financially supporting Grade R educators currently employed in schools to upgrade their qualifications, either to the level of Grade R Diploma or the Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase. An estimated 2 700 such educators are currently being supported.
The Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme is a multi-year programme to promote teaching as a profession. The programme provides bursaries to enable selected students to complete a teaching qualification in identified subject priority areas.
The DBE prioritises, in addition to African Languages, bursaries for studying towards a Bachelor of Education in Foundation Phase (Grades 1 to 3) with specialisation neurodevelopmental needs, Braille, and South African Sign Language.
Recipients of Funza Lushaka bursaries will be required to teach at a public school for the same number of years they received the bursary.
An additional R24.6 billion has also been allocated to provinces to address teacher shortages.