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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Tougher 'teacher poaching' rules
Children at school in Mozambique
It is feared recruitment will damage worldwide education targets
Rich Commonwealth countries should do more to prevent poaching teachers from their poorer counterparts, education ministers have agreed.

Politicians from 23 member nations signed a protocol aimed at reducing staff shortages in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.

Under it, richer countries should seek permission before recruiting abroad.

Last year, 5,564 teachers from elsewhere in the Commonwealth were given permits to work in England.


South Africa was the largest single source, losing 1,492, followed by Jamaica (523) and Zimbabwe (268).

It is estimated that Africa needs an extra five million teachers if universal primary education is to be achieved by 2015, the worldwide target date set by the United Nations.

The Commonwealth protocol - proposed by Jamaica and seconded by the UK - says organised recruitment could be "detrimental" elsewhere and that it should be avoided during the course of the school year.

Teachers who get work overseas should receive the full protection of their new country's employment laws.

They should also benefit from professional training, so as to improve education in their own countries when they return.

Although the protocol is not legally binding, governments are expected to put their own similar guidelines in place.

Some Caribbean countries had called for a total ban on recruitment from overseas, but the document stresses that both sides need to work together.

It states: "Any country has the right to be informed of any organised recruitment of its teachers by or on behalf of other countries."

If any country refuses to allow its teachers to leave, "at the request of the recruiting country, bilateral discussions should be held through which both countries should endeavour to reach agreement on recruitment".

The meeting between ministers, held at Stoke Rochford, Lincolnshire, was organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the UK's National Union of Teachers (NUT).

An NUT spokeswoman said: "We are delighted and we are pleased at the helpful approach taken by the British government.

"This should overcome the exploitation that teachers coming to this country experience and help move towards the 2015 target of getting every child into primary education."

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