On a vast continent of vibrant cultural traditions and dramatic, wild landscapes, teaching in Africa has the power to both challenge and reward those adventurous enough to do so. Quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa has much room for improvement, but the demand for motivated teachers and students’ enthusiasm to learn are high.
Considerations Before Teaching Abroad in Africa
- Teaching Conditions: One of the biggest challenges teachers are likely to face in Africa, particularly in rural areas, is overcrowded classrooms and lack of resources. This means classroom management can be challenging, and teachers would be wise to pack an ESL textbook or two.
- Volunteer Teaching vs. A Paying Job: There is an overwhelming amount of unpaid, volunteer teaching positions in Africa. These positions will may require volunteers to pay their own airfare and living costs, but should provide housing and some meals. However, it is certainly possible to find a paid position. Generally speaking, teachers should not expect to save while teaching in Africa but can earn enough to break even.
- The Job Search: Numerous volunteer positions can be found online or through church organizations before departing for Africa. The prevalence of online job postings for paid gigs depends heavily on the individual country.
- Qualifications: If you opt for a volunteer post, they often do not require experience or TEFL/CELTA certification, though fluency in English is a must. If you are searching for a paying position, a college degree, TEFL/CELTA certificate, and/or experience can give aspiring teachers a strong competitive advantage.
Each country is unique in terms of the teaching opportunities they have to offer, lifestyle, and environment but before launching into specifics, there is some general information that holds true for most teaching positions in Africa.
From William S. Burroughs to Jimi Hendrix, Morocco has captured the hearts and stomachs of thousands, making it one of the top countries in Africa for teaching abroad. It is a country of deep-rooted Islamic traditions, colorful cities built up like mazes (Marrakesh and Fes being the most ‘typically’ Moroccan), and natural beauty. In everyday life, Morocco mixes a traditional world view with the modern, and though constantly changing has never forgotten its past. Overall, living in Morocco can be a challenge but if you enter with an open mind and patience, Morocco has the power to steal away a piece of your heart forever.
Qualifications have been getting tighter as the pool of foreign teachers fighting for jobs grows. Also, Morocco is one of the rare instances where it is best secure a job before you leave through a university or reputable language institute, such as the State Department affiliated American Language Center, BPEC, Amideast, or the British Centre. Teachers can expect to make about $10-14 USD an hour, or roughly 9,000-11,000 dirhams per month if hired on as a contract teacher.
If you do find a job, be sure to get your contract in writing to protect yourself from dodgy schools and late paychecks. It’s in your best interest to have TEFL certification and some experience and knowledge of French or Arabic will give you a competitive advantage. Also keep in mind that a bachelor’s degree is a requirement not just for jobs, but also when applying for a Moroccan employment visa.
Over the past decades, Kenyans have used the unparalleled beauty of their beaches, savannahs, and the Great Rift Valley to build up their name as a premier ecotourism destination. That, combined with the allure of adventure on safari and almost year-round summer in a hot, tropical climate and it’s no wonder Kenya’s popularity as a tourist and expat destination has grown. Kenya comes in 4th for Africa's top countries to teach abroad.
English, alongside Swahili, is actually an official language of Kenya and the primary language of instruction in schools. However, the prominence of English doesn’t mean everyone is fluent and Kenya has no need for ESL teachers. Teachers can find jobs working with young learners, adults, or even expats. Paid positions require at least a TEFL certificate, which aspiring teachers can acquire through accredited institutions in Nairobi. A fair amount of positions are posted online; however, a good number of paying positions have a Christian affiliation and your willingness to work a Christian message into your lessons may affect where you end up teaching. Paid positions are low-paying and teachers should expect to spend savings if they travel.
The predominantly Muslim nation of Senegal sits on the Western coast of Africa, straddling the Sahara desert and miles of glistening coastline. Within its borders, nature reserves, tear-jerkingly spicy (but delicious) cuisine, and a population known for its hospitality beckon the adventurous traveler. Since its post-colonial separation from France, Senegal has remained fairly stable in terms of African politics, which has helped tremendously in the nation’s overall development and safety.
Though Senegal is Francophone, it has begun to catch on to the importance of English language learning, making it a prime destination for ESL teachers. Most jobs will be found in the current capitol, Dakar, but smaller cities like the colonial capitol, Saint-Louis, or Kaolack are also good places to search. For those who have experience and qualifications, the chance of getting paid -- and paid well – go up significantly. While not required, at least a basic or working knowledge of French is advantageous. If you are more interested in escaping the city and trying your hand at village life, volunteer teaching is your best bet.
Rwanda has recently made an incredible leap forward in development and away from a grim past. It has truly become a safe and remarkably beautiful country to visit – though still not for the weak in spirit. Nature lovers can escape to the jungles in the Northern Province for the chance to glimpse the endangered Silverback Gorilla, or lounge by the endless expanse of Lake Kivu. For the more cosmopolitan, a tour around Kigali and a few cups of Rwanda’s uniquely flavorful coffee may be more enticing. Whatever your flavor, Rwanda is a top country to pursue teaching jobs in Africa.
Whatever your choice is for teaching ESL in Rwanda, jobs will await you. Recently, the government has made a huge push towards becoming an Anglophone country; and with success. Part of this has to do with the French government’s reaction to the 1994 genocide, but mostly it’s a positive initiative by President Paul Kagame aimed at integrating into the East African Community, promoting tourism, and becoming an IT hub. Signs and businesses are now predominately in English. Dozens of language institutes have been popping up in Kigali and other large towns. In 2008, they even switched the primary language of instruction in schools from French to English. Overall, salaries are enough to live comfortably and the demand for teachers to instruct government officials, business executives, and ‘the general Rwandan public’ is quite high. A minimum of a TEFL certificate and a bachelor’s degree are required at most language institutes.
1. South Africa
The number one country in Africa for teaching abroad is none other than South Africa. For teachers who want adventure, cosmopolitanism, or the chance to experience a cultural blend of African and European traditions unlike anywhere else, South Africa is the ideal choice. As if this weren’t enough, South Africa also boasts a burgeoning culinary scene, internationally renowned vineyards, a variety of outdoors activities like rock climbing and shark diving, and of course, a shot at seeing the ‘Big Five’. Teaching in South Africa is guaranteed to have you ticking off boxes on your bucket list.
Like Kenya, English is one of several official languages in South Africa. This means that your students may not necessarily be South African – especially as its affordability and natural charm has made it an increasingly popular destination for English immersion programs and students wishing to study ESL abroad. The likelihood of finding a paying gig over a volunteer position is higher than other African countries, but then so is the competition. Aspiring teachers should have a college degree, a TEFL/CELTA certificate and/or experience. It is possible to get certified in South Africa. Teachers should not expect to save money while teaching South Africa but by balancing teaching jobs and tutoring can make enough to live like a local.
Africa is a continent of diversity and beauty. However, no one who spends a significant time living abroad on the continent comes away without having challenged themselves. No matter where you go, teaching in Africa will inspire personal growth and open your heart in unexpected ways.
Footnote: If you are interested in teaching in Africa, but not necessarily ESL, there are just as many opportunities to teach subjects like IT, art, math, and science. Anglophone countries such as Kenya, Namibia, and Ghana are good starting points for a search.
Photo Credits: The School for Field Studies (SFS)