Teacher migration: a case study of South African teachers migrating to Abu Dhabi.
Vester, Tatum Marshay.
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The global migration of teachers has been raised as an area of growing concern, particularly as developing countries struggle to retain teachers. South Africa (S.A.) is no exception, as previous migration studies show an exodus of teachers, thus neglecting to address the exit of teachers may have detrimental consequences for the development of South Africa, warranting further research into the migration of South African teachers (Manik, 2005). In response to this call, this sub-study explored migrant teachers’ reasons for leaving South Africa and the reasons why they were choosing to migrate specifically to Abu Dhabi. Categorised as qualitative research, this study was underpinned by the interpretivist paradigm as it was useful in understanding how South African teachers constructed their decision-making to exit S.A. and migrate to Abu Dhabi. A Case study methodology was used which placed the migrant teachers as the unit of analysis within the study. Data was elicited through five semi-structured interviews with teachers. Additionally, online documentary analysis gathered data on the strategies used by international teacher recruitment agencies to attract South African teachers to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Additionally, a reflexive field note journal was maintained to enhance the validity of this study. 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. 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, an ineffective curriculum, a lack of student discipline and poor school leadership and management. Furthermore, personal relationships, that is, strained marriages and friendships played an underlying role in the decision to migrate, including teachers’ need for personal development. Spousal influence was not a reason for migration from S.A. but it emerged as an important consideration, especially in terms of the degree to which the nature of hierarchical structures within the family influenced the decision-making of migrant teachers. Teachers were attracted to Abu Dhabi due to high salaries linked to the achievement of financial goals, a low crime rate, religious acceptance and perceived non-race based policies that provided access to opportunities. Additionally, the receiving country’s level of economic and social development also influenced teachers’ decisions and it was established that recruitment agencies played a role in steering South African teachers specifically towards Abu Dhabi as a teaching destination.