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Brussels schools suffer from shortage of teachers ahead of first day
The Belgian school year resumes this Wednesday, but the annual dilemma persists: There aren't enough teachers to accommodate the influx of students. Interest in a career in teaching has declined over the years, and, according to school networks, one in four new teachers leaves the profession after just one year.
The pandemic has added to the problem, schools are reporting, as the shortage means there are insufficient numbers of substitute teachers to take over when regular teachers fall ill. School administrators are scrambling this week to recruit teachers and finalise timetables.
Some teachers have abandoned their jobs in Brussels because of the continued pervasiveness of coronavirus or the mask mandate. “Many students are now returning from certain countries, and we are a bit worried about that,” Sabine Verheyden, director of the Lutgardis secondary school in Auderghem, told VRT. “But teaching with a facemask is tiring and hard on their voices. It does make it all more difficult. If there is an opportunity to teach near your home, then they take it.”
Verheyden says she's “really worried” about this academic year.“Not only about the teacher shortage, but we also really need to get everyone, including young people, to get vaccinated.”
Damien Desmont of the Institut Saint-Luc in Saint-Gilles is turning to freelance teachers to combat the shortage. “With someone who is self-employed, we can work out a few hours,” he told RTBF. “Then afterward, if they like what they are doing, they can increase their hours and pursue their certificate.”
The Dutch-language education department, meanwhile, has actively recruited teachers from the private sector. More than 2,800 professionals made a career change to explore teaching in the 2020-21 school year.
The department implemented an incentive whereby new teachers who come from other related professions can claim up to eight years of seniority if they switch to a subject that needs teachers. “This is one of the measures to tackle the teacher shortage,” said Flemish education minister Ben Weyts. “We will continue this strategy and continue to add subjects to the list where there are a shortage of teachers.”
Photo: ©Virginie Lefour/BELGA