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I read with some sadness and a sense of familiarity the article ‘Teachers teach subjects they’re not qualified for’ by Setsabile Nkambule (August 1) as the problem is apparently worldwide. In Australia we also face the problem of a shortage in the maths and science areas, but this has been made worse by the COVID-19 epidemic. We not only do not have enough specialist teachers, we do not have enough healthy teachers of any type.


We have survived almost two years of mostly home-based teaching using video conferencing, not always a reliable way of communicating and disliked by most teachers for its inefficiencies. The government schools are told not to send students home, so classes are combined or sent to the library to study. At times, 20 to 30 per cent of both teachers and students may be away. The problems of shortages are even worse in rural areas or ‘difficult to staff’ schools, a euphemism for schools where violence may occur or students are drawn from the disadvantaged suburbs.

I am a fully qualified, experienced, maths and science teacher, now happily retired, but due to the vagaries of timetables and staffing shortages I have also taught geography, photography and even robotics. The robotics subject involved electronics, no problem, and cutting plastic frames using buzz saws, a big problem. The only time I have refused was when I was given a replacement class in gymnastics.There may be solutions but they involve better pay, better working conditions, better training, more respect and less administrative tasks. I don’t think these shortages will be solved in the short-term.

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