Teacher Retention in Zimbabwe: Love for Teaching or Incentives?
This qualitative interpretive study investigated the lived experiences of qualified teachers who have remained in teaching for more than 10 years in Zimbabwean rural secondary schools. In understanding how teachers make meaning of their remaining in teaching, the focus is also on the role and place of teachers in society. The experiences were investigated using a dialoguing unhu theoretical framework based on the writing of Lortie (1975) and unhu philosophy. Teacher participants were drawn from three rural secondary schools in Chirumhanzu district in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe. In addition, two teachers who left teaching in Zimbabwe and are resident in the United States also participated in the study. The teachers had a minimum of 10 years teaching experience. Through semi-structured interviews, teachers were asked and shared information about their decisions to become teachers, how they decided to remain in teaching despite the growing challenges the field is facing, and how they viewed the role of incentives and other motivational mechanisms in their decision to remain in teaching. Data collection was done through interviews, journaling, memos, pictures, and artifacts. Data analysis was done using the phenomenological protocol to ensure trustworthiness and credibility, checking of transcripts, member checking strategy, field journal, and triangulation was used. Practicing epoche (suspension of judgments) helped in the bracketing of personal experiences, biases, and assumptions (Hays & Singh, 2012; Patton, 2015). There were several findings that influenced teachers to remain in teaching as cited by teachers: (a) affordability/quality of life, (b) family responsibilities and parental support (c) stepping stone, (d) good relationships, (e) love teaching/kids, and (f) economy and politics. Although they admitted that they face challenges in their professions, they also said that their proclivity to hard work and teaching has kept them going. Further analysis of the themes resulted in higher levels findings explaining why teachers have remained in the profession for more than 10 years. Four higher level findings emerged: the importance of community culture and relationships, the removal of incentives led to dissatisfaction but did not affect love of teaching, the local school context or environment influence, the value of the existence of unhu and respect, and the lack of alternatives to lead a satisfying lifestyle. A love model of teacher retention was developed from the findings to explain teacher retention in rural Zimbabwean schools. Retention of teachers was a result of altruistic, intrinsic, and extrinsic factors. Psychic rewards (Lortie, 1975), play a central role in retaining teachers in the Western context; however, community influence, dialogue, and unhu have been shown as greater influencer to teacher retention in this study as teachers love their jobs and enjoy working with kids. Knowing that they are making a difference is a source of motivation for teacher retention. Love for teaching was undermined by incentives that gave teachers a false sense of satisfaction. It is imperative for responsible authorities, parents, and administrators to be aware of positive factors that hold sway in the retention of teachers and work towards their improvement.