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Ageing principals exiting education

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As educators and principles begin the academic year, many questions have been raised regarding the increasing number of educators and principles who have chosen to exit the education system. While senior educators might have been given their fair share to the education system of our country, the early retirement of teachers and principals may negatively impact the education system of South Africa.

Researcher of socio-economic policy, education economist Gabriel Wills, states that the increased retirement rate of principles has resulted in a leadership and expertise vacuum; teachers have consequently been thrown into the deep.

“If you look at principals hired in 2010 to 2012, a quarter had only been teachers for two years before being appointed as principals,” she said.

Wills is currently involved in a project that examines the labour market of principles; an area that she says has not been adequately research. The research analyses their age profiles, their gender consistencies across the country, and whether their qualifications can be used as a useful symbol in South Africa.

Wills explains that the mandatory retirement age in South Africa is 65 years, yet in most instances principles retire well before the specified threshold.

She further asserts that there has been an increase in the age of teachers.

“In 2004, for example, about 17% of principles were aged 45 years or older, and in 2012 a third of principles were 55 years and older,” Wills states.

South Africa currently has to replace 1000-1200 principles every year “just for retirement reasons.”

She further notes that an assessment needs be made of the suitability of principles currently within the system.

Wills states that “at least over a half of the 55% of principles that were appointed in 2012, were appointed from within the ranks of the schools.”

“It gives us an unprecedented challenge to train new recruits who can qualify principals. We have a window of opportunity, especially when one considers the average school principal will stay in that position for 10 years,” Wills notes.

Principal of Glendale Secondary and public relations officer for the Progressive Principals’ Association (PAP), Achmat Chothia, states that “any principle that retires must make sure that they have done the capacity building at the institution.”

As a means to improve teaching, the Advanced Certificate: Education (ACE) Course in leadership has been implemented for teachers that are in management positions.

Chothia, however, feels that the course needs to be opened to post-level 1 educators who show enthusiasm.

Due to the increase in tax payments, teachers are increasingly retiring earlier.

Also, due to more lucrative prospects presented abroad, teachers are more readily leaving South Africa to teach in foreign countries.

“If a teacher can get a well-paid job in Dubai, why not?” Chothia asks.

Educators that are teaching at poorer schools, Chothia further asserts, are also accepting vacancies at more affluent schools for increased salaries.

He, therefore, urges the government to develop capacities within schools so as to sustain the needs of teachers.

Chothia does, however, note that compared to previous times, the opportunities that are presently provided to teachers, appear to be encouraging individuals to enter the education system.

“Currently, at Glendale, we have four of our ex-learners who are teaching here,” says Chothia.


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