School of Education

Shining the Spotlight on Teacher Migration

s Tatum Niemack graduated with her Master’s in Education.
Ms Tatum Niemack graduated with her Master’s in Education.

Ms Tatum Niemack is proud to have graduated with her Masters degree in Education following a study that explored pre-migrant teachers’ reasons for leaving South Africa.

A migrant teacher herself, Niemack’s study explored why pre-migrant teachers were choosing to migrate specifically to Abu Dhabi and how long they intended to remain abroad.

The findings revealed that teachers felt forced to exit South Africa due to low salaries, a high crime rate, religious intolerance and race-based policies which “denied teachers and their families’ access to opportunities”. The study also found that additional push factors revolved around teachers’ working conditions as they were frustrated with the large class sizes and high workloads, a lack of career progress, ineffective curriculum, a lack of student discipline and poor school leadership and management.

According to the study, spousal influence was not a reason for migration from South Africa but emerged as an important consideration, especially in terms of the degree to which the nature of hierarchical structures within the family and marriage influenced migrant teachers’ decision-making.

Niemack believes her research is useful in stimulating discussions on the concerns of teacher migration in South Africa and to address the reasons that drive this issue. ‘If the current government focuses its attention and resources on the push factors that teachers face, it would have a significant impact on curbing migration. Such a scenario would greatly contribute to achieving the ideals envisioned for a democratic and prosperous South Africa,’ she said.

Niemack began her Master’s while in South Africa, often trying to balance being a mother, wife, teacher and student. She then took up the opportunity to teach in Abu Dhabi, however she found it difficult to complete her research whilst simultaneously trying to orientate and settle her family in a foreign country and culture. ‘What holds true is that a Master’s degree is not achieved alone as there are many, and in this instance, particularly my husband and children, who worked behind the scenes to help me achieve this academic milestone. To my supervisor, Dr Sadhana Manik, her guidance was invaluable and she went to great lengths to ensure that I completed my research including meeting me in Dubai,’ she said.

Offering advice to other students, Niemack urged students to choose a research area that they are passionate about. ‘It will help you stay the course during the tough days. To those who are facing tremendous obstacles, especially working mums, I encourage you to get innovative and creative with how you tackle the challenge of balancing the multiple roles we play,’ she said.

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