21 May 2002

South Africa: HIV/Aids is Wiping Out SA's Teachers - World Bank

Cape Town — Critical teacher shortages could cripple education in South Africa, the World Bank, teachers' unions and opposition parties have warned.

This follows a new World Bank report which shows 44 000 (12%) of the country's teachers are HIV-positive.

The report also says that South Africa should be training 30 000 teachers a year to avoid the dangerous shortages. But the country has the capacity to train only 20 000 teachers a year.

The SA Democratic Teacher Union, the country's biggest teachers' union, said it hoped that, since the government was "dancing to the tune" of the World Bank on other issues, it would now take notice of this potential calamity in education.

"We have been warning the government about this for the past two years and it has done nothing.

"The Medical Research Council confirmed our fears and the government did nothing. Hopefully, now they will listen and act," said Sadtu's Don Pasquallie.

Molatwane Likhethe, spokesman for Education Minister Kader Asmal, said the ministry was "very concerned" and was holding a three-day conference at the end of this month to discuss the impact of HIV/Aids on education.

The National Union of Educators stressed that the "serious pending" teacher shortage went much further than HIV/Aids.

"It's not just about HIV and capacity to train, it's about attracting new recruits to train.

"We are training far too few because the profession is just not appealing to people," said the union's Helene Sieborger.

She agreed with critics who believed the draft amendments to the Employment of Educators Act would exacerbate the shortages because they aimed to give the Education Department power to deploy teachers wherever they were needed instead of allowing school governing bodies to veto appointments.

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