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It's difficult to pick a teaching destination in Africa when your options are spread across 54 countries! While teaching in Africa is not without its challenges - some may face harsh living conditions or limited school resources - you will learn a great deal about the local students, all while witnessing your own personal and professional development.
There are plenty of opportunities for English teachers, but also instructors who specialize in art, music, IT, and physical or health education. As a diverse continent, made of multiple regions and numerous ethnic groups, each teacher's experience will vary. You may live and work in in a bustling urban environment, secluded rural town, on the coast or in the desert. Either way, teaching in Africa is an adventure that has the potential to change the course of your life. Go on, find out where and how to teach in Africa!
One of the best options for new teachers in Africa is to volunteer at a local school. Many programs are looking for native English speakers with little to no experience, to instruct younger students, sometimes in rural, neglected areas. Volunteers may be placed in either a public, private, or religious school. While most schools need ESL instructors, you may be assigned to also teach math, science, computer literacy, or a variety of other subjects.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS rates are quite high. Volunteers have the opportunity to promote or establish health education programs that will raise awareness about how to make healthy decisions. WorldTeach offers a number of volunteer teaching programs in Africa.
Mostly privately-run, international schools are situated in major cities across Africa. Mainly children of expatriate or wealthy families attend international schools, as instruction is primarily in English. Some international schools follow the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) system, while others teach a bilingual curriculum. However, international schools seek experienced, qualified teachers, who can commit to 2+ years (as it is difficult for schools to sponsor short-term work visas).
In many large cities, you can supplement your teaching income by offering private English lessons. Some families hire part-time tutors to improve their children's spoken English. In addition, some business professionals are looking to practice their conversational English with a native speaker. Private tutoring is becoming increasingly popular in Morocco and other Northern African countries.
As such a large and expansive continent, there are varying costs of living across Africa. Generally, most capital cities or urban centers have costs of living that are comparable to large cities in Asia or the Middle East, for example. However, if you choose to live outside of the city, in a suburb or small town, you will find that daily costs are lower. Keep in mind that in some locations, food, oil, and clothing (amongst other goods) are often imported -- these will be your biggest expenses as housing is typically provided for teachers by the school or program.
African schools or programs typically require that their teachers are native English speakers. Many employers are lenient with other qualifications, such as a TEFL certification and prior teaching experience. If you are planning to volunteer, you will only need to have native fluency in the language you are teaching. If you plan to teach at an international school, it may be required to have 2+ years of prior experience on top of a bachelor's degree.
It is difficult to obtain a work visa in many African countries, unless you plan to commit to more than 2 years of employment at a particular school. Short-term teachers or volunteers will most likely work on a tourist or temporary visa. If you sign a contract with a school or organization for longer than a year or so, then your employer will provide visa sponsorship. Since there isn't a huge market yet, for paid temporary jobs, not many schools or volunteer organizations will arrange residence permits or work visas.
Work culture will greatly vary depending on the country or region. Most Northern Africans and some Western Africans practice Islam, do some research on local customs and regulations before your departure. As a rule of thumb, dress in business casual at school.
If you are teaching in a rural community, you may be the only foreign teacher at your school. This might be challenging, given there is a language barrier, but it is also a good opportunity to learn some of the local language. Also, keep in mind that some schools, located in rural or secluded areas, lack basic educational resources -- though, that won't stop students and teachers from finding creative solutions!
While the teaching job market in Africa is not quite as expansive as on other continents, there remains a significant need for teachers. In fact, educators have a great deal of options in Africa - they can teach English, volunteer for a shorter period of time, or become an educator in their area of expertise (e.g. art or music). By choosing to teach in Africa, you can launch an interest in education in locations that were previously neglected. Or you can start a career as an international educator by committing to a long-term teaching job in one of Africa's numerous cities or towns. No matter what, this is a prime opportunity to kickstart the improvement of Africa's education system for generations to come.
Photo Credit: Children in Malawi