By Bongani Nkosi
Johannesburg – One in four teachers in South African schools battle acute stress due to their working environment.
The situation is so dire that many teachers want to leave the profession.
These revelations are made in the second volume of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) report.
Conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) among member countries, the report was released by the Department of Basic Education.
OECD researchers sent questionnaires to 4 000 teachers and principals from 200 schools across the country, and 2 215 responded.
South African teachers reported more stress than their OECD counterparts.
“Teachers across participating countries in Talis point towards increasing levels of stress in the profession.
“About one in five teachers reported experiencing a lot of stress. In South Africa, this proportion increases to about one in four,” said the report.
“In South Africa, 25% of teachers report experiencing stress in their work ‘a lot’, which is higher than the OECD average (18%).
“Interestingly, in South Africa, the share of teachers experiencing stress in their work ‘a lot’ is higher in city schools (28%) than in schools in rural or village areas (15%).”
Work overload was generally the cause of teachers’ stress, the survey report found.
“In South Africa, the three most prevalent sources of stress teachers experience at work ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ are being held responsible for learners’ achievement (75%, in contrast to the OECD average of 44%), having too much marking (73% in contrast to OECD average of 41%) and administrative tasks (63% in contrast to the OECD average of 49%).”
Ostensibly, stress over too much marking had to do with overcrowding in urban schools. Stress over too much administrative work was linked to the curriculum.
Unions have complained that after the reforms introduced in 2011, the curriculum required teachers to carry too much administrative work.
Teachers who experienced stress at work largely reported that they intended to exit teaching in the next five years, said Talis.
“In South Africa, teachers who report experiencing stress at their work ‘a lot’ are 40% more likely to want to leave in the next five years.”
The study found that more than a quarter of teachers in the country have no desire to stay in the profession.
“In South Africa, 30% of all teachers report that they would like to leave teaching within the next five years (OECD average 25%).”
The Star reported in April that more than 57 000 permanent teachers resigned between January 2012 and December last year. Unions lamented this as a worrying brain drain.
It appeared unsatisfactory pay was one of the factors. Talis found 70% were not happy with their salary.
The survey accurately reflected stress levels of teachers, said the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu). “Our teachers are stressed because of the conditions they work under,” spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said.
“Classes are overcrowded. Violence in schools is also on the increase.
“That’s why as Sadtu we’ve called for psychosocial services to be availed to teachers.”
In the report’s foreword, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the findings on stress load and job satisfaction should be considered for policy reforms.
“Findings on these areas are important for teacher recruitment, retainment and building the profession; if not considered can lead to tensions and policy collisions, which can undermine education reform and the best intentions of government,” she said.