Major skills shortage looms for schools in South Africa

 ·28 Jul 2022

Almost half of South Africa’s teachers are going to have to retire in the next 10 years, says Julian Hewitt, chief executive officer of the educator bursary programme, the Jake Gerwell Fellowship.

Speaking to 702, Hewitt said that the Department of Education’s payroll showed that the country’s schools are expected to run out of highly skilled teachers.

The latest Jake Gerwell Fellowship annual report shows that 45% of all government-employed teachers will retire in the next decade – pointing to a potential teacher crisis.

“At least half the teachers in South Africa are in their 50s at the moment, and the retirement age is 60, so there is a looming crisis.”

This is compounded by the other major challenge facing the industry, being that there is poor uptake in teaching as a career of choice, said Hewitt. According to the fellowship, a recent OECD survey revealed that only 49% of teachers in South Africa regard teaching as their first-choice career.

This is significantly lower than international standards, said Hewitt.

A shortage of skilled educators due to retirement was previously raised by private higher education institution, Mancosa, which said that South Africa is not graduating an adequate number of teachers to meet the supply and demand.

“More teachers are leaving than entering the profession. Currently, the country’s initial teacher institutions graduate 15,000 new teachers per year. This is below the 25,000-mark required to maintain an effective teacher-pupil ratio,” said professor Magnate Ntombela, principal of Mancosa.

“There is a dire need to find 20,000 newly-qualified teachers each year to maintain current teacher-pupil ratios,” he said.

More graduates

The Department of Basic Education has previously responded to claims of a skills crisis in teaching, saying that the number of new teaching graduates is increasing every year.

“The number of initial teacher education graduates has grown over the last 10 years from an output of about 7,973 in 2010 to 31,799 in 2020,” it said.

The 25,000 graduates mark was reached in 2017, it said, adding that the current enrolment trends point to the upward trajectory in graduation numbers.

The output of graduates is favoured towards the Senior/Further Education and Training Phases (SP/FET) – partly because the two qualification pathways allow for SP/FET to qualify through both the Bachelor of Education (BEd) and Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) while Foundation Phase (FP) is largely limited to BEd pathway, the department said.

The average teacher attrition rate over is 15,200 a year – largely due to retirement, but also because of resignations, ill health and death, the department said.

The teacher supply in terms of quantity is reasonably adequate, the department said, at least from the analysis of the situation in public education.


The department’s latest information on how much the average teacher varies between post levels.

The lowest entry-level salary for educators that meet the minimum qualification (Relative Equivalent Qualification Value 13) or a matric pass plus three years of study is R214,908.

However, an educator who studied for four years earns R284,238 annually. This salary can increase gradually with experience and age.

According to the Department of Education, age does affect the earnings of a teacher; however, a promotion to a higher post could lead to a quicker increase in earnings.

Read: The biggest risk to South Africa right now, according to Absa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter