South Africa is not known as the Rainbow Nation for nothing, and Johannesburg is one of the best examples of a bustling metropolis in the heart of this nation full of culture and diversity. While there are challenges for teachers in Johannesburg, there are benefits that no other country would afford, making it the perfect location for an educator who wants to make a difference.

There are a number of different approaches to teaching in Johannesburg, each of which has its own challenges and benefits. The most popular job positions can be divided into three sections: public school, private school and volunteering.

Public Schools:

Due to South Africa’s history of inequality, finding a position in a public school can be a daunting process. Currently, there is a high rate of unemployment, and preference is given to minority groups and those who were previously discriminated against during the Apartheid era.

Combined with the language barrier at most public schools, where English is often a second language, this makes teaching at a public school one of the most difficult tasks for a Foreign English Teacher.

That being said, should you find that such a teaching position is available to you, it is an opportunity that can be hard to pass up. Teaching at a public school will expose you to students from a variety of backgrounds and can be a fulfilling experience for any educator.

Private Schools:

Foreign teachers may find job opportunities in private schools to be more easily accessible. Johannesburg is home to a myriad of wonderful private schools that offer a high level of education and are, for the most part, aimed at first language English speakers. The positions available are often open to a wider range of applicants, with teaching and cultural experience being at the forefront of their expectations.


South Africa’s high rate of unemployment has led to a large number of children who cannot afford the schooling that they deserve. Thus, there is ample opportunity for volunteering in Johannesburg at a number of literacy centers throughout the city and the surrounding areas.

Volunteers are always welcome and although it is unlikely to be a profitable position, it is guaranteed to be a rewarding one, as you will find that the will and enthusiasm for learning is utterly contagious.

When and Where to Look for Jobs:

The way to go about finding available positions will differ, depending on the position that you are interested in. While vacancies at private schools may be easily found online, positions at public schools are often less openly publicized and difficult to apply for over the internet, particularly as a number of government-funded schools have scarce access to internet and online resources.

If volunteering is your preferred route, there are a variety of volunteer programs in South Africa to suit all needs and budgets. If you do not find a program that you like the look of, all is not lost. There are so many opportunities for volunteer work in Johannesburg that you are likely to find the position that you are looking for. Do bear in mind though that volunteer programs are often not funded and would require a separate source of income to accomplish.


Qualifications are vital when it comes to applying for positions in South Africa, particularly if you are not part of a minority group. Visas can often be awarded to persons with special skills and experience, and the higher your qualifications, the more likely you are to find a good position in a public or private school environment. For volunteer work, no particular qualifications are required.

Salary & Cost of Living:

Cost of living in South Africa is considered to be fairly low compared to other countries (around $750 USD per month). However the salary that is afforded is also relatively low (around $1000 USD) and working in South Africa would be a case of working to break even rather than working to save. Averaging $400 per month, rent can be particularly high in Johannesburg and travel around the city can also be costly, particularly as public transport can be unreliable at times.

Though housing and rent may be included in some contracts, the majority of public and private schools do not cover the rent for positions. It is not uncommon for house-sharing to be the most cost-effective solution, and it is highly recommended that housing be found in a location either close to work or close to one of the more bustling centers, such as Sandton or Rosebank.

Classroom & Work Culture:

If teaching in public schools, teachers need to take a more stern approach. In private schools and volunteer programs, there is often a more relaxed atmosphere for teachers, where they can foster a more personal relationship with students.

In classes of over 40 students in public schools, it can be difficult to relate to students one-on-one. In a smaller group, which the private schools provide and with the less formal atmosphere of the volunteer programs, you will find that it becomes easier to relate and interact with students. In the classroom, the dress code can range from formal to casual, so make sure to ask your employer about dress beforehand.

Contributed by Lara Salomon

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