Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: Call for the continuation of the NPDE
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In this data-informed position article, the authors describe the profile of unqualified and under-qualified teachers' workplace circumstances and experiences in terms of their personal and environmental attributes. By doing so, context is provided to open and distance learning (ODL) programmes as these teacher-students' only option to improve their qualifications and progress towards better teaching and learning, especially in rural and semi-rural schools across South Africa. The authors argue conclusively for the continuation of the National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE) programme for unqualified and under-qualified in-service teachers, currently being discontinued by the Department of Education (DoE), or a similar initial qualification. Although mostly untrained and unskilled, unqualified teachers are often dedicated and prepared to teach in remote rural areas or at severely disadvantaged schools, with limited physical amenities and resources, because they live there and are part of the community. Owing to a variety of disadvantages, they do not have the basic study skills required for ODL, and the medium of instruction creates additional barriers which they can hardly overcome by themselves. The research indicates that the attitude of these teachers is mainly positive; subsequently, they are dedicated and instil good values within learners. They should thus be enabled to obtain an initial qualification, other than the Bachelor of Education (BEd), via ODL.