Factors Underlying Teacher Absenteeism in Selected Schools Located in Tshwane West District, South Africa
Teacher absenteeism is widely recognised as a serious problem, particularly in disadvantaged areas, yet there is little systematic research and data on teacher absence in developing nations. Generally, literature discusses the phenomenon of teacher absenteeism on the basis of high-income countries and low-income countries. The current research argues that the reasons for teacher absenteeism in developed nations are largely personal matters related to the individual and the rate of absence is relatively low. In this study we argue that while teachers’ absence is a matter that concerns the individual, there are institutional (school), structural (social environment) and economic factors that impact on the extent of teacher absenteeism in low-income countries. The purpose of the study is to investigate factors underlying teacher absence in disadvantaged communities. We investigated the phenomenon of teacher absenteeism in three (n–3) selected schools in the District of Tshwane West (D15) located in Soshanguve, Gauteng Province, South Africa. Soshanguve is a township with a predominantly disadvantaged community which depends on the public schooling system and probably has limited access to private education. The study used qualitative methods and data was collected through semi-structured interviews. The findings reveal that the schools are ineffective in curbing and reducing teacher absenteeism due to insufficient policy measures. The problem of teacher absenteeism is rampant and manifests in many forms. The leave policy seems to be effective in curbing the wage bill for substitute teachers, but at the same time it appears to grossly contribute to the damaging effects of absenteeism on educational outcomes. We recommend that costs in implementing the policy need to be balanced against the effectiveness of the policy. Reducing teacher absenteeism implies reducing the monetary cost of teacher absence and improving the education outcomes of learners. This ensures that the relationship between inputs (education investment) and outputs (learner performance) is optimal. We conclude that improving teacher attendance will thus increase productivity in schools.