An interesting combination of more than a dozen West African cultures and influences from it's days as a French colony, Senegal provides travelers not only with a stimulating assortment of cities and landscapes, but also a diversity of languages and cultures.
For teachers, this makes for an incredibly rich environment to work within: you have the option of teaching French or English, and you get to live inside a cultural melting pot. No matter if you spend your time in the nation's lively capital Dakar, or Saint-Louis (the first French settlement), you will undoubtedly come face-to-face with many fascinating foods, communities, and traditions.
Photo credit: SirisVisual.
The national government recently initiated a plan to make English part of compulsory education, starting at the age of 11 up until the end of secondary school. Most students know the two most common languages, French and Wolof. However, English comprehension is not yet widespread.
Private International Schools:
Many families, who can afford to send their children to school, will send them to a private school. At international private schools, students study the official language of Senegal (French), and English is the primary foreign language. ESL and French teachers are needed in Dakar, the thriving capital city and location of most international schools in Senegal.
Unfortunately, Senegalese public schools are underfunded and lack basic resources, such as textbooks. Often, low-income families can only afford to send one child to school, and typically it’s the son. Sadly, many girls living in poor communities never get a chance to attend school.
As a volunteer, you can help close the educational gap between rural and urban Senegal. Children in rural areas will greatly benefit from having French and some English under their belt. Some volunteer programs provide the opportunity to train teachers; volunteers can ensure that Senegalese teachers have the basic tools to teach an English class. Overall, there is a shortage of teachers in Senegal; many even leave half-way through the school year due to conflicts with the school concerning pay.
Language schools offer courses in adult, conversational, and business English. Much of the clientele are college students, in their young 20s. This is the generation of Senegalese that aim to practice their English in a professional environment, so that they can conduct business with international companies. In addition, many are familiar with Western pop culture, particularly music, and wish to expand their comprehension.
Finding a Job
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
Hiring is done almost year-round. Most teaching jobs are located in Dakar and Saint-Louis. Volunteer teaching programs are available in rural areas of Senegal.
At most international schools, there is a requirement of 2+ years of teaching or TEFL certification. If you are a volunteer, you do not need a TEFL certification.
The official language of Senegal is French; knowledge of some French is quite useful for teaching lessons, as well as in daily life.
Need to Know
Salary & Cost of Living:
At a private school, you can earn around $26,000/year (given that you are a qualified instructor). Many schools provide housing in homestays, airport pickup, and local support.
The cost of living in Dakar is much higher than living in smaller cities or rural areas. While transportation is cheap in Dakar, rent and recreational activities (like going to the movies) are not. However, if you choose not to go eat at fancy western restaurants, you can save some money while living in Dakar.
Classroom & Work Culture:
If you are teaching in a public school, chances are, you will be without amenities or supplies. Get creative, since it’s likely that you will have a very basic classroom with over 40 students. In general, sports, such as basketball and soccer, are especially popular amongst Senegal’s youth. Try to integrate sports into class activities or lesson plans.
Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country. Be respectful of the religion and its customs. In addition, women should not wear anything above knee-length, particularly when teaching. For more info, check out this article for advice on social etiquette in Senegal.