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Foreign Teachers in South Africa - the Situation in May 2017

Posted: 16-05-2017

At present Placements in Education only accepts applications from people who are South African Citizens or Permanent Residents of South Africa, and who obtained their teaching qualifications in South Africa. We regret having to take this decision, and the purpose of this article is to outline why we have adopted this policy.

The Department of Basic Education in South Africa has taken a decision not to employ foreign teachers – even those who have work permits - in their schools. This means that no matter what Province you are in, foreign teachers can not be employed in State Schools. Their justification of this decision is to say that there are South African teachers who are currently unemployed (which is true) and that they believe that they should employ South African citizens first. The better-established Independent schools have followed suit, for the same reasons, and will not employ foreign teachers unless they are unable to find a South African teacher for the post. When they do employ a foreign teacher it is invariably someone who has significant teaching experience in a good South African State School, rather than someone who has been teaching in an inner city school, or someone who has recently come to South Africa. In cities, at present, it is very difficult for foreign teachers to find jobs.

In 2015 the Department of Home Affairs removed teaching from the Critical Skills List, and stopped issuing or renewing Quota Work Permits for teachers. This means that when the Quota Work Permit expires it can not be renewed, and the employer will be forced to terminate the employment of the teacher or break the law.

We are aware that some desperate teachers have forged a Quota Work Permit. We urge you not to do this. One teacher who did was arrested at school and deported with his family during April 2017.

While some people have told me that they find the actions of the South African government very unfair, we know that South African teachers with long service in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, have had a similar experience there. When their visa or work permit expired it was not renewed, and they were forced to return to South Africa and seek work. I have spoken to heads of schools overseas who have told me that they did everything they knew to keep their South African teachers, but because there were citizens unemployed they could not get visas for South African teachers. So what the South African government is doing is not unique, all over the world non-citizens are finding it difficult to get work in foreign countries, and as a result they are returning to their country of origin, and usually taking a huge drop in salary when they arrive home. Neibouring African countries such as Zimbabwe will not grant work permits to any foreign teacher at all, and in Zambia it is almost as difficult.

The majority of Placements in Education's clients will no longer employ foreign teachers. As a result we have taken the decision that to accept applications from people who are not South African citizens is to give foreign applicants false hope. It is highly unlikely that we can find a job for foreign teachers at present.

In rural areas, particularly in Limpopo and KZN, foreign teachers can be appointed to State teaching posts, but only after the school has made every effort to find a South African teacher for the job. In these cases, the foreign teacher is generally offered a contract for a single school term. Should a South African teacher be found the foreign teacher's contract will not be renewed at the end of the term. We have heard reports of foreign teachers being driven out of their post by local communities because a South African citizen wanted their job. So although a foreign teacher may get an appointment in this way, they need to know that there are no guarantees that they will be able to stay in the school for any length of time.

Teachers who qualify for Permanent Residence in South Africa (ie. They have been living legally in South Africa for five years or more) should make application without delay. They can then legally apply for teaching posts, but if their qualifications are not South African they will have trouble securing an appointment, and should think seriously about changing their career to one which does not have a majority of jobs controlled by the State.

Teachers with Permanent Residence in South Africa who have jobs in rural areas should think long and hard before they move to cities. Their chances of gaining employment in the cities are not good at all at present

The Pendulum has swung wildly since 2007, when the South African Government was actively recruiting foreign teachers because of the shortage of teachers in South Africa. Now the stated policy is to encourage foreign workers to return home. But it will swing again. There will be a further teacher shortage, and the South African government will again recruit foreign teachers. But it wont be soon.

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