Johannesburg – As we approach the end of the fourth term of the 2022 academic year, several qualified but unemployed teachers, who funded their own tertiary fees, have expressed concerns that they could remain unemployed for quite a while.
These graduates feel they are being let down by the government, which they claim put them at the bottom of the list in terms of employment in preference of graduates who got bursaries particularly from Funza Lushaka and NSFAS.
The teachers said they sensed a form of discrimination and unfair treatment from the government claiming that they were not treated the same way as bursary holders
However, when reached, the Department of Basic Education said this was not the case, as all teachers were given the same acknowledgement and treatment.
The Department’s spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said that there was no policy to discriminate against anybody based on how the qualification was funded.
“Any teacher who meets the requirement for a post that is available can be considered for appointment, by either School Governing Body (SGB) or the government itself, provided, the requirements have been adequately met,” Mhlanga said.
He said the reality of the situation was that there were hundreds, if not thousands of teachers who were qualified and unemployed. “This includes those who obtained their qualifications through self-funding, NSFAS, beneficiaries of bursaries including those funded through Funza Lushaka. The Department itself even struggles to place graduates funded through Funza Lushaka.
“The lack of budget to appoint teachers has an impact on those seeking employment irrespective of how they were funded. It is a general challenge that the sector is facing. It is for this reason that we say that there is no shortage of teachers but there is a shortage of money to employ all the qualified teachers,” Mhlanga said.
In early 2021, the government announced its termination of funding certain qualifications. Post-graduate certificate in Education (PGCE), was one of the qualifications that was put out.
Thulisile Shezi, 40, one of the thousands of self-funded unemployed teachers said: “I have been told that in one district in Durban as well as in Stanger that bursary holders take priority when it comes to employment. Particularly Funza Lushaka beneficiaries, then the other bursary thereafter, which makes it clear that we might not get placed, as we don’t owe anyone, which is not fair. Being self-funded does not entail that one has money, or they are rich, we also have the need to be employed like other people who were funded.”
Shezi expressed concerns about whether she would ever get employment due to her being over 35 years. “What are people like myself supposed to do as most posts clearly state that one has to have five years experience … I mean we don’t qualify for pension and it seems after 35 you are not good enough to work … Why does 35 feel like the end of life in SA?”
Semenya Dimakatso, 24, is similar situation. She is a self funded graduate, and finding it almost impossible to get employment.
“I had no bursary because my mother works for the government. And that resulted in me financing my own education. However, that does not mean I am rich. The government should just stop prioritising bursary holders over the others, because we did not choose to have parents who are financially stable … I need to wake up one day and be able to pay for my own bills. I mean, if i could rely on my mother, I wouldn’t even have gone to school in the first place,” Dimakatso said.
Itumeleng Mothoung, 27, meanwhile is one of the bursary holders who is not at all affected by this matter. However, he said he knew someone who nearly took their lives because of this situation. Mothoung is employed, but expressed disappointment at the Department. He said he wished the Government could stop prioritising bursary holders, especially because some students look loans to finance their education.
“After my friend learnt that NSFAS will not fund his studies, he took out a loan to pay for his tuition fees. Subsequently, he was denied employment on the basis of being self-funded. I watched him get broken, depressed, to a point where he even wanted to take his own life because there was no way he would be able to pay back the loan. I think bursary information should not be required when we apply for teaching jobs. The government should rule that part out to try to be inclusive and grant everyone a chance of employment.” he said.