Guest Editor's Introduction
Like all countries, the postcolonial states of Sub-Saharan Africa seek to develop their educational systems in conjunction with national development in other sectors. Unlike many other countries, African states engaged in educational reform also face issues related to decolonization. These include external influences on reform priorities as well as issues arising from their own internal histories and regional interrelationships.
In the following articles, educators S. E. Mphaphuli and Kakoma Luneta open a window on the tensions between internal needs and external influences in Southern Africa by focusing on the subject areas of geography and mathematics. The insights they offer attest to the universality of many educational issues as well as to the local forms they can take.
The context for the first article is the general educational reform now playing a critical role in the transformation of the new South Africa.1 To overcome the apartheid legacy, four segregated and grossly unequal systems are being merged into a single integrated system. Massive teacher training and materials development are taking place as a more learner-centered system is being introduced at all levels.2 Within the curriculum, subjects like mathematics, technology, science, English, and indigenous languages are receiving top priority.
As part of the British educational legacy, geography has traditionally enjoyed a status equal to, or greater than, that of history (in contrast to American schools). However, under the current reforms, history and geography are not priority subjects, and are increasingly being incorporated into an Integrated Studies programs (the British equivalent of U.S. social studies). Mphaphuli illustrates the challenge facing geography educators like herself as they try to retain a role for geography in their country's development and education agendas.
Swaziland, the primary subject of the second article, is a small independent kingdom with a long history of autonomy; as such, its development goal is not radical transformation, as in South Africa, but greater self-sufficiency and internal progress. Swaziland shares with its neighboring countries of South Africa, Lesotho, and Botswana a complex regional colonial and postcolonial history. Manifestations of this shared history emerge in contemporary education issues in these countries. Based on his research and his experience as a teacher-educator, Luneta explores the finer details of a familiar problem: a shortage of mathematics teachers, not only in Swaziland but in countries across the region.
In South Africa, traditional geography instruction has been primarily theoretical, using methods based on memorization and repetition of facts. To meet the country's new development goals, this situation has to change. Geography educators must begin using learner-centered approaches that encourage students to think and develop the cooperative skills to ensure lifelong education-the ultimate goal for educational transformation in South Africa as we approach the year 2000.
Geography in the Classroom
South Africa is presently grappling with the concept of transformation as a continuous process of construction and reconstruction of reality. In the old South Africa, different political ideologies influenced the types of education offered. The Christian National Education policy of the apartheid-era government created racially segregated education systems. All education was strongly traditional, focusing on the teacher and requiring the pupil to simply repeat what he or she learned.
The new government policy advocates democratic education with maximum participation by all stakeholders, in other words, education that liberates the mind.3 Most current reform documents emphasize relevance and an integrative approach to education.4 But while researchers such as Ballantyne and Levy have argued for learner-centered approaches,5 many teachers still favor traditional methods.
These generalizations apply to geography education. Justice has not been done with regard to the teaching of geography in most of the black secondary and tertiary institutions. Many geography educators have blamed the government or top management for not providing the necessary resources. I argue that the approach teachers adopt determines the outcome in students, and that teachers of African pupils must rise to this challenge.
Relevance and Job Skills
Arguments for relevance are not new in geography education. Milner defines "relevance" as relating the subject to the real world of the learner, while Rawling maintains that "the geography of the 1980s in Britain was characterized by insistence on beginning with the needs of the children, rather than the needs of the subject."6 The new U. S. Geography Standards also stress relevance and active participation by students.7
Geography educators in South Africa recognize the need to incorporate the four main traditions of geography into their teaching-namely, the human-land tradition, earth science, regional viewpoints, and spatial perspectives.8 Our teaching of geography needs to be broad enough to encompass these four traditions while at the same time addressing student needs.
It is also our duty to explain the relevance of geography to the job market. In South Africa, the importance of the "priority subjects" of mathematics, computer science, technology, science, and language is widely accepted, and students assume they will find jobs if they earn qualifications in these fields. Although geography does not enjoy this reputation, it is a useful subject that renders students able in many important fields.
It has become obvious in South Africa, especially in Northern Province where I teach, that students who have completed university courses in geography lack guidance regarding jobs. Many of our geography majors have become what I call "misplaced products of geography"-people who restrict their career choices to the teaching profession, rather than becoming the cartographers, meteorologists, demographers, environmentalists, and planners needed by the country in geography-related fields.
Needs in Teacher Education
In South Africa, teacher education is offered at pre-service (PRESET) and in-service (INSET) levels. PRESET is offered at colleges and universities, while INSET programs are offered by both these institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). PRESET training in most colleges is a repetition of the school syllabus, and does not encourage new teachers to be creative or innovative. In most cases, teacher-educators spend most of their time emphasizing methodology, particularly on topics that are possible examination questions. INSET programs, on the other hand, often take the form of a short course offered by an expert in the field. However, teachers hesitate to attend these courses unless the speaker is the external examiner of their subject because of the lack of school funds to enable them to attend with pay or time off.
A particular problem in regions such as Northern Province actually results from an oversupply of teachers. Many colleges of education have been "rationalized" (combined with others or closed down), while others have been reduced to "eduparks" (a local term denoting ineffective service delivery and waste of facilities). In those colleges that remain, there is no link between PRESET and INSET training.
Based on their traditional preparation, the classroom practice of teachers is characterized by harsh discipline, reliance on textbooks, memorization of facts, and teacher-centered pedagogy (predominantly lecture).9 Innovative strategies such as cooperative learning, team teaching, games, and simulations that could liberate the minds of students are rarely used. This is all the more true in traditionally black schools, where historical neglect has meant that untrained or inadequately trained teachers have few or no books and resources, and very large classes.
On the positive side are recent innovations in teacher training. Rather than emphasizing attendance at INSET, for example, the departments of education in each province are encouraging NGOs to offer short courses to a select group of teachers. However, Mutshekwane reports that most teachers in Venda (part of Northern Province) despise top-down INSET plans and prefer less intimidating programs that accommodate their own input10-suggesting that it is imperative for teachers to feel involved if real educational improvement is to occur.
Priorities for Geography Educators
South African educators face enormous challenges in terms of teacher needs, rigid and outdated curricula, absence or shortage of resources, high pupil-teacher ratios, insufficient training, and uncertainty about the future. As the traditional top-down approach is replaced, teachers need exposure to the wide spectrum of learner-centered approaches, including fieldwork, cooperative learning, negotiation skills, critical thinking, and team teaching.11
In geography, teacher perspectives need to change along with the curriculum. Geography teachers should attend workshops to learn about strategies such as games, simulations, role playing, research projects, and presentation and discussion skills. Such training in new approaches needs to reach all teachers. Only through active participation by all of those involved will geography retain a strong presence in transformed education. n
The shortage of mathematics teachers is a global problem, widely documented in the relevant literature of the past forty years.12 In Britain, the Cockroft report highlighted the situation;13 in the United States, the lack of enough college students interested in teaching math and science, and the drain of experienced teachers into more lucrative jobs in industry, has been a problem since the 1950s.14
The mathematics teacher shortage in most countries is related to failure to attract enough quality teachers as well as the diversion of mathematics teachers into instructional technology or industry. The actual shortage is a more complex problem than simply too few teachers. Investigations by the British Department of Education and Science portrayed the problem in several ways: (a) overt, a real shortage evidenced by physical vacancies; (b) hidden, diminished quality of instruction or teaching by individuals not trained in mathematics; and (c) suppressed, situations in which the subject is underrepresented in school curricula.15
African countries share this global phenomenon. States that were colonized by European countries have generally inherited their educational structures, policies, and attitudes. In African countries today, "teachers who can teach the content of mathematics effectively are in short supply,"16 and the shortage of mathematics teachers in southern Africa in particular has reached an alarming stage.
The Case of Swaziland
In Swaziland, as elsewhere in the region, the number of mathematics and science teachers falls far short of those needed. In 1996, there were 346 secondary mathematics and science teachers, compared with the 698 posts available.17 A hidden shortage also exists, meaning that much mathematics teaching is carried out by teachers whose training is in other fields. In my research in ten schools in the Shiselweni region, only 11 of 32 mathematics teachers were qualified in the subject. I would argue that there is a suppressed shortage as well, in that many mathematics classes are larger than average, especially in junior and community-built schools.
In Swaziland, the minimum number of periods per week for mathematics in primary and secondary schools is seven. Reductions in teacher-pupil ratios and educational expansion in the form of new community schools have increased the demand for teachers. Recruitment of teacher candidates, however, is limited by the poor performance of students in O-level (10th grade equivalent) mathematics. Only two percent of students taking the Swazi Postgraduate Certificate of Education are mathematics specialists; most candidates choose other careers in engineering, medicine, and accountancy.18
In spite of these shortages, little is done to attract university students into teaching, or to reduce the high rate of turnover among mathematics teachers. In the ten schools I investigated in Shiselweni, the headmasters reported that their highest attrition rates are in mathematics departments. One school lost three out of four mathematics teachers in one term; two left for jobs in the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, and the third left for a post in South Africa. South African industries have drained much manpower from Swaziland, especially in mathematics and science, due to higher remuneration and more attractive conditions of service. Attrition also occurs because there are few prospects for promotion in the schools.
Ironically, the Swaziland Teacher Service Commission has very few vacancies in the teaching profession; in fact, it is over-employed. How can this be? Records show that Swaziland is producing more teachers in the arts (history, religion, languages) and very few in mathematics and science. They also reveal the hidden shortage of the latter teachers, in that while there are vacancies for mathematics and science teachers in the schools, there are no empty posts they can fill.19
A Shared Problem in Southern Africa
The problems outlined for Swaziland are common across Southern Africa despite the emphasis on mathematics as a top priority for postcolonial development. In Zambia, the shortage of mathematics teachers in the 1970s and 1980s became so severe that the system had to rely heavily on expatriate personnel from Asia. Zambia has lost thousands of
educators-including mathematics teachers-to the neighboring countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and South Africa as its internal economic conditions have deteriorated. In an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging, the Zambian government in 1992 introduced a 20 percent retention allowance for graduate teachers to keep them in the system.
In Botswana, a country whose healthy mining and tourism revenues nourish development, the shortage of teachers in key subjects like mathematics is eased temporarily by the widespread use of expatriate teachers from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Europe, and Asia. Currently, Botswana also uses large numbers of Cuban mathematics and science teacher volunteers. Although dependence on expatriate teachers in Botswana compromises the country's long-term goals for self-sufficiency, the practice is likely to last a long time. Yet the diversion of mathematics teachers into instructional technology under Botswana's Revised National Policy on Education (1994)-which makes instructional technology and computer awareness high priority subjects-is likely to exacerbate these losses.20
In South Africa, mathematics has always been a high status subject, but largely as a privilege for white pupils. Under its new reforms, mathematics is a high priority (along with science, technology, English, and indigenous languages) for all students. The non-white populations and schools are in greatest need, as the apartheid legacy of unevenly funded schools will take many years to eliminate despite the current emphasis on recruiting teachers for the priority subjects.
Strategies for Addressing the Shortages
There is clearly a need to attract and train more mathematics teachers throughout southern Africa. The use of expatriate teachers does not solve the long-term problem, and results in the additional problem of high turnover. Shortages and attrition among mathematics teachers regionwide suggests the need for multiple solutions. These include more aggressive recruitment of new teachers, retraining courses for existing teachers, promotion and salary incentives, encouraging retired teachers to return to the classroom, and offering more attractive working conditions-including the teacher houses common in many countries.
The shortage of mathematics teachers in Southern Africa is very apparent, yet the real extent of the problem remains masked. It is a cause for concern that, while the shortage is generally recognized by the region's governments, the problem seems to have become accepted as the normal state of affairs. If mathematics is indeed a high priority subject for national development, then shortages in all their forms need to be addressed.
1. For a summary of events surrounding the 1994 democratic elections, see D. L. Brook, S.L. Field, and L. D. Labbo, "South Africa's Transformation as Seen at School," Social Education 59, 2 (1995): 82-86.
2.African National Congress (ANC), A Policy Framework for Education and Training (ANC Education Department/McMillan Publishers, 1995); National Curriculum Development Committee (NCDC), "National Qualifications Framework," Working document, NCDC Working Group, presented to Department of National Education, August 1996.
3. P. Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1972).
4. ANC, A Policy Framework; NCDC, "National Qualifications Framework"; Republic of South Africa, "White Paper on Education and Training," Government Gazette, Notice No. 196, Department of National Education (Cape Town: Government Printer, March 15, 1995).
5. R. R. Ballantyne, "Geography's Position in the Secondary Curriculum: Pupil Enrollment Trends," South African Geographical Journal 70 (1986): 102; B. Levy, "Geography Teaching in South African Schools for Whites, 1800-1980," unpublished master's thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1984.
6. Milner, 1975; E. Rawling, Geography in the 1980s (Sheffield: The Geographical Association, 1980), p. 61.
7. Geography Education Standards Project, Geography for Life: National Geography Standards (Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1994).
8. W. D. Pattison, "The Four Traditions of Geography," in Perspectives in Geographical Education, ed. G. Bale (Edinburgh, Scotland: Olwa Boyd, 1970), 270.
9. S. E. Mphaphuli, "A Search for Educational Relevance: An Investigation into the Teaching of the Rural Settlement Component of the Secondary Syllabus with Special Relevance to Venda," unpublished masters thesis, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, 1992.
10. M. A. Mutshekwana, "In-Service Education and Training of Teachers in Venda," South African Journal of Higher Education 9, 2 (1995): 155-59.
11. N. Collins, New Teaching Skills (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 109.
12. International Bureau of Education, Shortage of Secondary School Teachers (Geneva: International Bureau of Education, 1967), 7; H. M. Levin, "Solving the Shortage of Mathematics and Science Teachers," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 7 (1985): 371-82; R. Rumberger, "The Shortage of Mathematics and Science Teachers: A Review of the Evidence," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 7 (1985): 355-69.
13. R. Cockroft, Mathematics Counts, Report, Committee of Inquiry into the Teaching of Mathematics in Schools (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1982); N. Straker, "Mathematics Teacher Shortage in Secondary Schools: The U.S.A. Experience," Journal of Education for Teaching 14 (1988): 23-38.
14. Levin, "Solving the Shortage," 371.
15. DES, 1986.
16. A. O. Kalejaiye, Teaching Primary Mathematics (New York: Longman, 1985), 2.
17. Swaziland Ministry of Education, Educational Statistics (Mbabane: Swaziland Ministry of Education, 1994).
19. Swaziland Teacher Service Commission, Data on Teacher Employment, Teaching Posts, and Supply/Demand Issues (Mbabane: STSC, 1996).
20. Botswana Ministry of Education, "National Policy on Education" (Gaborone, Botswana: Ministry of Education, 1994); P. T. Nleya, "Educational Policies and New Technologies: The Case of Botswana," Paper presented at the Second Annual International Congress on Education and Informatics (Moscow 1996), 2.
Ballantyne, R. R. "Changes in Secondary School Geography Education: Teacher Attitudes and Practice." Unpublished masters thesis, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, 1988.
Davidoff, S., and O. Van den Berg. "Changing Your Teaching: The Challenge of the Classroom." Perspectives in Education 12, 3 (1990): 103-5.
The preceding articles by Mphaphuli and Luneta are summaries of papers presented at the 1996 Annual Meeting of the Southern African Society of Education, Mbabane, Swaziland (with the University of Swaziland), August 31 to September 2, 1996. They appear here with the permission of the authors and Dr. J. van der Vyver, Editor of the Proceedings Volume (SASE, 1996, volume 1).
S. E. Mphaphuli is a faculty member in the School of Education at the University of Venda, Thohoyandou, Northern Province, South Africa. Her specialties are in teacher education and geographic education. She is active in the regional Southern African Society of Education (SASE).
Kakoma Luneta is a faculty member in the mathematics department at Ngwane Teacher Training College, Ngwane, Swaziland. He has conducted extensive field research on issues related to educational reform and mathematics/science education in Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland.