Teachers' mental health status, stress levels and incidence of burnout during a period of change and reorganization within the South African education system.
The education system in South Africa is undergoing vast changes in the post apartheid era. These include amalgamating the previously segregated departments, developing disadvantaged schools, financial cut-backs and the implementation of the controversial Right Sizing Document (1996). Kwa Zulu-Natal currently has a severe shortage of education facilities. Many children are not attending school and there is a dire need for qualified educators. Outcomes Based Education is being phased in, concurrently with the other changes. Despite this, the Right Sizing Document calls for a reduction in teaching personnel. It is unclear how reorganisation and the prospects of redundancy and redeployment have affected teachers. The aims of this study were to determine teachers' mental health status, stress levels and incidence of burnout during a period of major transformation and to explore teachers' perceptions of the changes. The researcher used a descriptive cross sectional design. A sample of 217 teachers was used, from urban primary and secondary government schools in the Pietermaritzburg North region. Data were collected using two standardised self-report measures, the General Health Questionnaire (Best 30 item version) and the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Teachers were also asked to respond to a list of statements on Redundancy and Reorganisation Issues, designed by the researcher. The data were analysed by z-tests, analysis of variance, Pearson's correlation, Mann-Whitney tests and Kruskal-Wallis one way analysis of variance. Responses to an open-ended question were analysed qualitatively. The findings indicated extremely high distress levels for all the respondents, irrespective of age, gender and post level, in comparison with published norms and the findings of other studies. This distress did not appear to be associated with their own professional role and competence as teachers but seemed to relate to the uncertainty of their employment situation. The impact of the current changes on teachers' psychological and physical well-being were reflected by their responses to statements in the Redundancy and Reorganisation section of the questionnaire. It is recommended that the education authorities should develop a recovery strategy to address this urgent situation. Consultation and negotiation with teachers should be an inherent aspect of reorganisation and change, to prevent a repetition of the current situation. The role of professional organisations and various other issues that warrant further investigation are specified.