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Africa: 54 countries, stretches for more than 30 million square kilometres and has a population of 1.1 billion people who together speak over 1,500 languages! Phew!
While Africa deserves a lengthy visit, it’s not overflowing with paid TEFL jobs. Across most of the continent English teaching opportunities for foreigners are limited to voluntary posts in local schools. These can give you a fascinating insight into everyday life and are relatively easy to come by, particularly in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. On the downside, you need to be prepared to cover your own costs – and potentially contribute towards the project – although accommodation and a small living allowance are sometimes provided.
If you are looking for paid work teaching English then head for Egypt, Morocco or South Africa. Each of these countries has private language schools that will hire native English speakers to teach well-off families and adults who want to improve their opportunities in the tourist sector or international business. You should earn enough to live comfortably by local standards but you’re unlikely to have a great deal left over to save. Many teachers top up their incomes with private tutoring work, which you can often pick up in the main cities.
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Where to start?! Africa encompasses the iconic Pyramids of Giza, the ultimate safari experience of Kenya’s Masaii Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and the breath-taking immensity of the Victoria Falls. And then you have the captivating souks, riads and maze-like streets of Marrakech, the fascinating history and stunning Great Mosque of Djenné and Cape Town’s stylish city living with its sensational coastal backdrop. While these are just a few things which make Africa a fantastic place it’s fair to say that this continent is amazingly diverse and truly thrilling.
If you have both a formal teaching qualification and previous teaching experience, it’s worth looking for a role at one of the private international schools that exist throughout Africa. These cater for wealthy families and for the large number of expatriates and will usually follow either a US, UK or International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. For suitably qualified teachers, able to commit to a two-year contract, these can be a good option as they offer a higher wage and greater job security.
You won’t normally need a bachelor’s degree to take on a voluntary role teaching English in Africa – the main stipulation is that you’re a native (or native-level) English speaker.
A degree is also not usually required for paid TEFL roles in Egypt. However, if you’re looking for a paid TEFL role in Morocco or a teaching role in an international school then you will need a degree, as well as your TEFL qualification.
Given the size and diversity of this continent, it’s hardly surprising that living costs vary enormously. As a rough guide, costs in the main cities are broadly comparable to those in Asia. However, if you move out to the villages and suburbs it’s possible to live very cheaply – particularly if you only use local products and produce. For example, a one bedroom apartment in the centre of Marrakech costs around £300 per month – and you could pay double that for a similar apartment in the centre of Cape Town. However, once you move outside the city centre, costs drop rapidly – on outskirts of Marrakech, for example, you can get an apartment for £150 per month.
Accommodation is often provided as part of your teaching package, which will cut down your outgoings considerably. Even in countries such as Morocco, where this is less common, you’ll often get help with finding somewhere to live – and may get an additional payment towards the cost.
Overall, if you’re in a paid TEFL position you should earn enough to cover your living costs and have a little over to travel. If you’re in a voluntary position, be prepared to subsidise anything more than the basics.
Across most of Africa, the majority of English teaching jobs are on a voluntary basis in a public, private or religious school. While you may officially be there to teach English, roles are often fairly fluid so be prepared to teach any subject that comes along.
In Egypt, Morocco and – to a lesser extent – South Africa, you can find paid TEFL roles in private language schools. You’ll normally be teaching adults who want to improve their English to support their job prospects, or the children of wealthy families who are topping up their English language skills.
It’s also possible to pick up private tutoring, again particularly in Morocco and Egypt. Similar to the language schools, this will generally be for wealthy families or business professionals who need to improve their English to get ahead at work.
If you have a degree and a formal teaching qualification, the other option is to work in an international school. You’re likely to be teaching the International Baccalaureate (IB) syllabus to expatriates and wealthy local children or following a UK or US curriculum.
What you need to be eligible to teach English in Africa varies, depending on which country you’re going to and the role you are doing. Broadly speaking, if you’re planning to teach English on a short-term voluntary basis, you can usually enter the country on a tourist or temporary visa. In this case, the only real eligibility criteria is that you’re fluent in English and, ideally, a native English speaker.
If you do have a teaching contract for a year or more then you’ll generally need to apply for a work visa, via sponsorship from your employer – and you may need to provide proof of a bachelor’s degree, TEFL certification and/or formal teaching qualification for your application to be successful.
If you’re working in a private language school in Egypt or Morocco, you’ll normally have 20 to 25 teaching hours per week. This can extend to 30 hours in South Africa. Even adding in preparation, this leaves you with lots of free time to explore.
Your hours will be more varied if you’re tutoring privately or volunteering and you may have more flexibility over when you work. Volunteering positions can range from a full timetable to a couple of hours helping out in a class. It all depends on your particular project and role, so make sure you’re clear what about what you will be doing and the hours you will work before you commit.
At the other end of the scale, if you’re employed by an international school you will have a structured timetable across the school week and also may be required to assist with extra-curriculum activities in the evening or weekends. Again, make sure you check your contract in advance.
Along with teaching hours, class sizes vary widely across the continent. You’re likely to have more children per class than in a European or US school – 30 to 40 children per teacher is fairly normal – but this does depend on the type of school, as private and international schools have a lower pupil to adult ratio.
Also remember that Africans are, by and large, fairly conservative – so dress appropriately (casual business is usually a safe option) and always expect the unexpected.
Jobs in private language schools are available all year round, so it’s never a bad time to look for an English teaching job in Latin America. The busiest recruitment time is normally in the months leading up to the new school but as this region spans hemispheres, term times (and seasons) vary.
In southern hemisphere Argentina, for example, the school year normally runs from February/March to December, with peak recruitment time in December to February. For Mexico, in the northern hemisphere, the school year starts in late August with the busiest recruitment period from May to August.
If you’re working in private language school in Morocco, Egypt or South Africa, you can expect to earn anything from £500 – £1,000 per month, sometimes with free or subsidised accommodation on top. You’re unlikely to save anything substantial but you should be able to afford a reasonable standard of living.
You’ll set your own charges for private tutoring but £5 – £10 an hour is fairly normal, depending on the size and level of your group.
If you’re volunteering, you won’t be paid a wage as such. However, some projects do offer free accommodation and / or a small living allowance that will help to cover basic costs.
Teachers for international schools are normally recruited three to four months before the start of the new school term. However, if you’re hoping to volunteer or work in a private language school, you’ll see positions advertised on TEFL jobs boards all year round.
Due to the low cost of living, many teachers travel to the continent on spec and then look for jobs in local newspapers or contact schools direct when they arrive. This way you’re on the spot for face-to-face interviews and can often nab an urgent vacancy.
Due to the political instability in Egypt, teaching numbers have dropped considerably – meaning that you’ll find good opportunities for paid teaching work here. However, do check the latest travel advice before you go. The best places to look are Cairo and Alexandria, which both have private language schools and a relatively wealthy population.
There’s also a strong demand for English teachers in Morocco, particularly in Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat and Fez. There can be issues with contracts in private schools, so make sure you research the institution before accepting a job – or focus on roles in British Council schools and internationally recognised agencies that have a good reputation.
Demand for foreign English teachers is lower in South Africa but it’s still possible to pick up work here, particularly if you’ve got good qualifications and experience. You’re most likely to find work in the main cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
Across Sub-Saharan Africa, the main opportunities are for voluntary roles in local schools. Go through reputable agencies and/or research the institution thoroughly before you go. Be prepared to be the only foreigner working in the school and be ready to be very flexible about what you teach!