Curro CEO Chris van der Merwe. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Chris van der Merwe. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

PRIVATE schooling company Curro said on Tuesday it had bought a teacher training institution for R60m, and planned to set up two more in Gauteng and the Western Cape over the next two years to meet a growing demand for teachers in its schools.

Curro, which is 63%-owned by Stellenbosch-based PSG Group, said the move was part of its plans to contribute to the training of schoolteachers in the country, and that it did not want to jeopardise its relationship with the state by having to poach highly skilled teachers from the public sector.

"We don’t want to alienate the state. We want to show them that we are quite willing to have a joint venture with the state," Curro CEO Chris van der Merwe said.

Curro plans to have 80 schools in its stable by 2020, from the 26 it has now.

The move comes amid concern that children in South Africa at the foundation phase are not being sufficiently equipped with the skills they need to help them do well at high school.

Curro hopes to fill the gap by training quality teachers who will be able to offer high-quality education to young children.

Curro said on Tuesday it was entering the teacher-education market through the acquisition of Embury Institute for Teacher Education in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr van der Merwe said the private training college would offer three early childhood development and foundation-phase teacher education qualifications, accredited by the Council on Higher Education.

Through a partnership with the University of South Africa, it would also offer a bachelor of education foundation-phase degree.

Curro’s expansion into teacher training colleges comes as the government moves to reopen former education colleges in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and is planning to do the same in other provinces.

The department has been moving to address the gap between supply and demand for teachers, having identified a need for 18,000 new teachers a year.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said last month that by next year, South Africa’s universities would be producing 14,000 new teachers a year.