There is a quote that says "Everything that is rare is expensive". In sub-Saharan Africa, in that "Everything", it seems that we must include Everything but the teaching profession.
Indeed, the shortage of teachers that affects the whole world in general is particularly more pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa. If we stick to the quote, this situation should have had the effect of raising the salary of teachers to attract as many people as possible in the profession. But no! On the contrary, it appears to be driving teachers' salaries down. In The Ivory Coast for example, in the schools, you can find benevolent teachers and volunteer teachers alongside state civil service teachers.
Often recruited by local communities and/or by NGOs, benevolent teachers with extremely low salaries (often less than 15000fcfa [$30/€23] per month according to a Regional Director of Education) hold classes, usually in rural areas. Alongside benevolent teachers, there are those who are called volunteers. To cope with the serious shortage of secondary school teachers, the Ministry of National Education and Technical Education recruited 3,000 of those in 2012. Paid at 100,000 CFA ($200/€150) per month, these volunteer teachers have held classes alongside colleagues often paid three or four times more.
Based on discussions we had with members of the Cabinet and the General Inspection of the Ministry of Education, it turns out that the good success rates on Ivory Coast examinations this year (33.58% in High School, 40.17% in Middle School and 67.03% in Primary School) are largely due to the presence of these benevolent and volunteer teachers. It is therefore clear that these two categories of teachers are important for the quality of education. However, while all of them strongly agree on their importance in the education system, they are less confident about their future. Indeed, when we start addressing the question of their future, everyone goes quiet, especially volunteer teachers.
With such a low salary and an uncertain future, how can we keep these teachers in their positions, whether they are benevolent or volunteers?
The situation in The Ivory Coast reappears identically throughout the Subregion. Thus, the main cause of teacher shortage in Saharan Africa seems to be related to the inability of education systems to retain them in the post. Indeed, quality education requires quality teachers while retaining quality teachers is another challenge in the education system. In sub-Saharan Africa, the job of teaching "on the field" is often neglected for the sake of juicy positions in ministerial offices, central government or private corporations.
If we want strong educational systems in our countries that strive to emergence, it becomes imperative to look into the motivation of teachers through a revaluation of the profession. Indeed, if Africa wants to build a good education system, it must invest in teachers by way of quality training, respecting their professionalism, rewarding and recognizing those who are effective and efficient and improving their morale and motivation.
[Translated from a contribution by Antoine Mian]