Teaching English in South Africa
While there are lots of South Africans teaching English around the world, South Africa also has a demand for English teachers. JellybeanQueen (not her real name!) is a South African teaching in her home country after TEFL jobs in Spain, Thailand, China and England. She was kind enough to give us the lowdown on teaching English in South Africa.
What kinds of English teaching jobs are there in South Africa?
South Africa is a bit of an interesting case in terms of TEFL. There is a market for EFL in the major cities – Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban – but it’s restricted to language schools or universities and it’s quite seasonal. We have a lot of the big chain language schools and quite a few smaller, boutique language schools. A few universities offer EFL courses for their international students.
However, in comparison to other countries, the EFL market is very small, meaning not many jobs but a lot of teachers.
If you can find a job, teaching usually means teaching adults. Classes range from General English to Business English to IELTS. The language schools get a lot of specialised groups who need ESP for a few weeks or months, so I’ve taught air traffic controllers from Reunion, security personnel from Angola, doctors from Libya and a French CFO.
We get quite a wide range of nationalities coming here to learn English, particularly Brazilians, Angolans, Libyans, South Koreans and Swiss nationals so the classes are always a nice mix of cultures. The busy season is over summer (October – March) and the low season is during winter (May – August).
It’s very easy to find private students so a lot of teachers do that to supplement their income. The language schools don’t like their teachers doing this so if you need to keep it on the down-low but it’s definitely possible. Gumtree is the best place to advertise your services or look for private students.
How do you usually find English teaching jobs in South Africa?
I think it’s best to apply in the country. Even though there are a lot of schools there are also a lot of EFL teachers so vacancies get snapped up quickly. When you’re here it’s very easy to approach the language schools and speak to the DoS. It might be necessary to advertise yourself as a cover teacher for a while to get in the door, but once a school gets to know you they’re likely to contact you when they have too many students for their teachers.
If you do want to try to get a job before coming here, look on the websites of the major language schools and the South African gumtree site for vacancy postings.
What are the best schools to work for (for a relative newbie)?
How much do schools pay TEFL teachers in South Africa and how does this compare to the cost of living?
Teachers won’t get a package and you’re likely to be paid an hourly wage, which depends on your qualifications. With the DELTA and a Master’s degree I’m earning R140/hour but when I started (at another school) I was only earning R100/hour so it really depends on the school. Most schools will pay you for a certain amount of prep work, marking and meetings which will add to your monthly wage.
All the schools in South Africa (in Cape Town, especially) have very popular social programmes and this is a great way to work a few extra hours. Most schools have a weekly programme which can involve climbing the mountain, playing volleyball on the beach, shopping at a local market or playing football. If you are one of the teachers who leads these events you’ll be paid for your time, which is awesome because you’re basically being paid to hang out in cool places doing rad things.
Living in South Africa is quite expensive. Your living costs will be your biggest expense but it’s possible to rent a small apartment or find a flatmate. You also need to consider the cost of transport because the cities are big so walking is not usually an option. There are buses and trains but they’re not always reliable, so it’s best to get a car, even though traffic can be a nightmare!
You should earn enough to get by and still have a good standard of living but you might not be able to afford the creature comforts you are used to. Having said that, we have a very good standard of living generally – good food, good wine and lots of things to do and it’ll probably seem quite cheap if you’re converting from other currencies. It’s a good idea, though, to have some savings to back up your salary.
What are the requirements for teaching English in South Africa?
A degree and a CELTA are generally preferred but it’s still possible to find jobs with a degree and a TEFL. It’s really hard to find a job without a degree unless you already have some EFL experience. There are no hard and fast rules about this, though, so it’s up to the school.
You’ll need a work permit and the school will have to help you get it, though you will need to apply for it in your home country. I’ll be honest, it’s not easy to get because there are so many South African TEFL teachers.
Why should you teach English in South Africa?
Definitely don’t come here to save money. Come here to have an adventure. South Africa is such an interesting country and so diverse – there really isn’t another country like it. Come here to watch the sunset on the beach after work, hang out with penguins, climb the mountain at full moon or go winetasting on weekends – ok, these are all Cape Town things but there’s loads to do in Joburg, Durbs and PE too. And wherever you are in the country you know you’re never far away from a safari!
Seriously though, if you’re interested in South Africa you might want to look at volunteer programmes or internships so you can come and suss out the environment. Coming to South Africa should definitely be on your bucket list and if you’re a newbie teacher it could work for you but if you have a bit of experience and are looking for a job to advance your career, this is probably not the right place. But if having a good time and living the good life is what you’re looking for, then make a plan and make it work for you.
You can read more of JellybeanQueen’s thoughts on TEFL on her blog: The TEFL Life.
Read more about teaching English in other countries in our other posts: Teaching English
Photos from JellybeanQueen and Pixabay.