The DBE established the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme (FLBP) in 2007 to recruit motivated and academically gifted youth to make teaching a career of choice. This bodes well with the broad departmental goal of meeting the supply and demand needs for high quality teachers. Goal 14 of the Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030 compels the basic education sector to: “attract in each year a new group of young, motivated and appropriately trained teachers into the teaching profession”. The purpose of the Programme is to assist in the attainment of Goal 14 and the creation of a quality basic education system through the recruitment of suitable youth to become teachers.
The 2016 Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme Evaluation Report found that the Programme is able to select adequate numbers of students who meet the selection criteria, and that the number of applications had grown, from 2,801 in 2008 to 44,736 in 2013, and currently stands at 92,928 in 2017. Approximately 15,147 students were recruited and are being funded in the 2017 academic year. The dropout rate for the B.Ed. students is minimal and approximately 81% of B.Ed. and 49% of Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) students complete programmes in the normal duration time.
A total of 91.8% of FLBP graduates are employed as teachers. The majority of these graduates are teaching priority subjects they specialised in. Currently, the placement rate stands at 89%. The North West and the Northern Cape Provinces have the highest placement rate at 100% whilst the KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape Provinces have the lowest placement rate at 81%. A total of 5,012 students are expected to graduate in 2017.
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) published a report, “Relationships between teacher supply and demand and the size, shape and substance of teacher education in South Africa”, during 2015. The report suggests that by 2020, relative shortages in teacher supplies will still be evident, but that an absolute teacher supply shortage will no longer be a concern as the FLBP has made a considerable contribution to improving the attractiveness of teaching as a choice for many South African youth. The merit-based criteria for awarding the bursary have also contributed to a higher calibre of students entering initial teacher education programmes.
The roles and responsibilities of Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) in the FLBP have been broadened in recent years and additional responsibilities have been allocated to PEDs in respect of the co-ordination of the identification, recruitment, selection, monitoring and support.
The Funza Lushaka website provides valuable information for applicants and prospective teachers and can be accessed at www.funzalushaka.doe.gov.za. The online application system opened on 01 October 2017 and will close on 12 January 2018.