What is it like to teach in Africa?
Africa is a vast continent. The Democratic Republic of Congo itself is almost the same size as the whole of Western Europe. Although English is the international language of choice in much of the continent, there are still areas where French is the international language, and pockets where Spanish or even Portuguese is spoken alongside the many local languages.
Pay and conditions for teaching in Africa
International schools are springing up in urban areas across Africa and they educate the children of the international community foreign residents and the offspring of those local residents who can afford their fees. You will probably find yourself working with a mixture of African and ex-pat teachers.
As one contributor to the TES Teaching Overseas forum noted, “you’re not going to make a lot of money by teaching in Africa”. However the good news is the cost of living in most African countries is extremely low and you will make enough money to have a comfortable life and the opportunity to travel around the area. Basic foodstuffs are cheap, but imported goods, often including petrol can be very expensive, and depending on how wealthy the country is, possibly subject to shortages.
Check what currency your salary will be paid in; if it’s paid in a local, unstable currency then you could run into problems. Most of the international schools will pay either in pounds Sterling or dollars and the salary could well be tax free.
Positions in international schools will almost always include housing and yearly return flights. It’s not unusual for teachers to have staff to help around the house and even a driver. Many positions also include free schooling for the children of teachers.
Many schools in Africa are boarding schools and you may be asked to take on boarding duty occasionally, ask about these requirements during interview.
Class sizes are usually around 30-40 children, however teachers have found that behaviour is less of a problem than it is in UK’s classrooms, perhaps because corporal punishment is still legal in Africa.
The curriculum in African schools
The British education system has had a large impact on the international schools and so many follow a largely UK-based curriculum, although some cater more for Americans. You can expect that your pupils are largely being prepared for university in either the UK or the US.
Africa is huge and there’s a variety of different climatic zones ranging from the hot moist tropics, through countries with distinct seasons, to hot and arid areas. Diseases can be a problem and in particular long-term visitors must take precautions against Malaria in many countries. You should also check what health care is included in your contract and how far away you are from a well equipped hospital, just in case.
Africa sits on the dividing line between Islam and Christianity, and this can lead to significant cultural differences within and between countries. This divide is very apparent in West Africa where the northern parts of many countries are Muslim and the south Christian. Across the whole of East and Southern Africa there remain communities who trace their roots back to the Asian continent, although many East African Asians migrated to Britain in the 1960s and 1970s when certain regimes made them feel unwelcome.
Life outside school
Parts of Africa have had a turbulent history, although the regular coup d’états that were so frequent thirty years ago are much less common these days. Nevertheless, even stable countries can experience upheaval or natural disasters out of the blue and crime levels, especially burglary, can be high. For this reason, in much of the continent a pioneering spirit is still a great help.
Learning simple words and phrases in the indigenous language makes life run a lot more smoothly. In most sub-Saharan countries overseas residents will be expected to employ local staff to carry out the basic household tasks, and it’s always worth taking advice on current wage rates.
One of the attractions of teaching in Africa is the continent itself, and the chance to travel. There can be few better experiences than watching the sun go down with a glass of local beer and the trumpeting of a herd of elephants in the background. For some this is an experience for the long school holidays, but for the lucky few, the romance of Africa is the backdrop to their everyday teaching.
Teaching in Egypt
Cairo is the second most populous city on the planet and it’s home to many of the schools advertising for teaching staff. Other English language schools can be found in Alexandria, Suez and the holiday resorts of Sharm, Hurghada and El Gouna.
Pay, working hours, required qualifications and treatment vary considerably around the country. You will need a full working visa to get employment; the big international schools will generally sort this out for you before you arrive in the country. Some institutions may employ you once you’re in the country and you will likely be working on an extended tourist visa (tourist visas can be renewed on an annual basis).
Salaries for trained teachers are along UK lines and you can expect flights, medical insurance and housing rental to be included in the deal. If private health care is not include then get some as soon as possible. A quick look through some of the teaching jobs in Egypt advertised in the TES revealed that many paid tax free salaries in Pounds Sterling and that the salary includes a monthly housing allowance, annual flight allowance and free health insurance.
Teaching in Kenya
English is the language for education – all lessons are taught in English and all text books and exam questions are in English.
Safety can be a concern in this region, but many teachers who have taught in the country remember it fondly. It’s worth reading this interview with Simon Hill, a teacher currently working in Kenya.
There are several conversations about teaching in Kenya on the TES Teaching Overseas forum with teachers commenting that you won’t make a lot of money and you have to watch out for malaria and the occasional power cut. Read this conversation on teaching in Kenya, go to the end of the thread to see the most recent messages. Also worth reading is this chat about salaries in international schools in Kenya
Teaching in Nigeria
A trawl around some of the jobs advertised in the TES for international schools in Nigeria revealed that many pay a tax free salary in Pounds Sterling and that the salary includes health care, accommodation and annual flights home.
Teachers on the TES Overseas Teaching forum recommend you do your research carefully before choosing a school, but do say that education is well respected in Nigeria. Read a conversation on teaching in Nigeria
Teaching in Tanzania
The typical salary deal for a teacher in Tanzania in an international school will allow you to live comfortably in this country. The school accommodation is likely to be basic but comfortable and may be on secure compounds.
But you do have to be prepared for some hardship; roads can be rough, particularly in the rainy season; telephones, water and electricity supplies can be erratic; the choice of food can be quite limited.
It’s also worth checking out this TES article written by a volunteer teacher working in Tanzania