Migrant Zimbabwean Teachers in South Africa: Challenging and Rewarding Issues


The research carried out regarding the experiences of migrant teachers in South Africa mainly highlights the challenges that these teachers face. This article reports on a case study that sought to document the experiences of 15 Zimbabwean teachers working in the Gauteng province of South Africa. Data were collected through semi-structured, face-to-face interviews and analysed qualitatively using open coding. The study revealed that migrant teachers encountered several challenging issues including a lack of job security, short and unreliable contracts, difficulties in accessing loans for those employed on short contracts, exploitation, xenophobic discrimination, lack of induction and lack of learner discipline. Professional development, good financial rewards, social acceptance and political freedom were some of the rewards that they enjoyed in South Africa. Understanding the experiences of migrant teachers is crucial to the promotion of their rights, reduction of the risks associated with their migration and to the improvement of their professionalism. Further research is necessary to find ways of protecting migrant teachers against discrimination and exploitation. It is also recommended that policy is drawn up that would facilitate the compassionate termination of migrant teachers’ employment contracts once the required number of South African teachers has been reached.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Caravatti, M., Lederer, S. H., Lupico, A., & van Meter, N. (2014). Getting teacher migration and mobility right. Education International. https://issuu.com/educationinternational/docs/teachermigrationstudy. Accessed 15 June 2018.

  2. Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE). (2015). Teachers in South Africa. CDE. 25, 2016 from http://www.cde.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/TEACHERS-IN- SOUTH- AFRICA-full-report20_03.pdf. Accessed 18 May 2018.

  3. Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research. New Jersey: Pearson Education.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Crush, J., Chikanda, A., & Tawodzera, G. (2012). The third wave: Mixed migration from Zimbabwe to South Africa. Cape Town: The Southern African Migration Programme.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Daniels, A., & Green, W. (2014). Evaluation of international teacher qualifications in South Africa. In J. Keevy, W. Green, & S. Manik (Eds.), The status of migrant teachers in South Africa (pp. 65–88). Pretoria: The South African Qualifications Association (SAQA).

    Google Scholar 

  6. De Villiers, J. J. R. (2011). Career plans of final-year South African student teachers: Migration to ‘greener pastures’? Africa Education Review, 14(3–4), 212–229.

    Google Scholar 

  7. De Villiers, J. J. R. (2011). South African teachers as mobile knowledge workers in a global labour market. In S. M. Manik & A. Singh (Eds.), The anthropologist: International journal of contemporary and applied studies of man (pp. 53–60). Delhi: Kamla-Raj Enterprises.

    Google Scholar 

  8. De Villiers, R., & Weda, Z. (2018). Zimbabwean teachers in South Africa: Their needs and advice to prospective migrant teachers. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 19, 299–314.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Deniz, S. S. (2016). From skill translation to devaluation: The de-qualification of migrants in Turkey. New Perspectives on Turkey, 54(2016), 97–117.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Department of Basic Education (DBE). (2015). Education Statistics in South Africa 2013. http://www.education.gov.za/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=ci%2f3HwFhNrg%3d&tabid=462&mid=1326. Accessed 16 Feb 2018.

  11. Dovlo, D. (2003). The brain drain and retention of health professionals in Africa. Conference paper presented at Accra, September 23-25. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/265108883_The_Brain_Drain_and_Retention_of_Health_Professionals_in_Africa_The_Brain_Drain_and_Retention_of_Health_Professionals_in_Africa/download Accessed 29 December 2018

  12. Kalitanyi, V., & Visser, K. (2010). African immigrants in South Africa: Job takers or creators? South African Journal of Economic and Management Science, 13(4), 376–390.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2014). Practical research: Planning and design. Essex: Pearson Education.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Manik, S. (2012). Zimbabwean education professionals in South Africa: Motives for migration, next steps in managing teacher migration: Papers of the sixth commonwealth research symposium on teacher mobility, recruitment and migration. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), London, 78–84.

  15. Manik, S. (2013). Zimbabwean immigrant teachers in KwaZulu-Natal count the cost of going under the hammer. Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of the Arts and Humanities in Southern Africa: Alternation, 7(2013), 67–77.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Manik, S. (2014a). “We are working hand to mouth”: Zimbabwean teachers’ experiences of vulnerability in South Africa. Migracijske i Etničke Teme, 30(2), 171–191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Manik, S. (2014b). Professional experiences of migrant teachers in South Africa. In K. Keevy, W. Green, & S. Manik (Eds.), The status of migrant teachers in South Africa: implications for policy, research, practice (pp. 105–120). Pretoria: The South African Qualifications Association (SAQA).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: a guide to design and implementation. Revised and expanded from qualitative research and case applications in education. California: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Nieuwenhuis, J. (2009). Qualitative research designs and data gathering techniques. In K. Maree (Ed.), First steps in research (pp. 69–97). Pretoria: Van Schaik.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Osman, R. (2009). The phenomenon of xenophobia as experienced by migrant learners in inner city schools of Johannesburg. (Unpublished MEd dissertation). University of South Africa, Pretoria.

  21. Pitsoe, V. J. (2013). Teacher attrition in South Africa: Trends, challenges and prospects. Journal of Social Science, 36(3), 309–318.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Ranga, D. (2015). The role of politics in the migration of Zimbabwean teachers to South Africa. Development Southern Africa, 32(2), 258–273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Rule, P., & John, V. (2011). Your guide to case study research. Pretoria: Van Schaik.

    Google Scholar 

  24. South African Council for Educators (SACE). (2011). Teacher migration in South Africa: advice to the ministries of basic and higher training. Pretoria: SACE http://www.sace.org.za/upload/files/teachermigrationreport_9june2011.pdf. Accessed 23 Nov 2017.

    Google Scholar 

  25. South African Qualifications Authority. (2013). International teaching-related qualifications evaluated in 2010. Directorate for Foreign Qualifications Evaluation and Advisory Services. Unpublished.

  26. Vandeyar, S., Vandeyar, T., & Elufisan, K. (2014). Impediments to the successful reconstruction of African immigrant teachers’ professional identities in South African schools. South African Journal of Education, 34(2), 1–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Weda, Z. L. (2013). Factors influencing the migration of teachers from Zimbabwe to South Africa. (Unpublished DEd Thesis). University of South Africa, Pretoria.

Download references


We are grateful to all interviewees who shared their experiences. We also acknowledge the valuable comments that we obtained from the reviewers, which helped to shape this paper.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rian de Villiers.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Weda, Z., de Villiers, R. Migrant Zimbabwean Teachers in South Africa: Challenging and Rewarding Issues. Int. Migration & Integration 20, 1013–1028 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-018-00649-6

Download citation


  • Challenges
  • South Africa
  • Teacher migration
  • Teacher shortages
  • Zimbabwean teachers