Embracing Diversity: The Joys and Challenges of TEFL in South Africa

Something that you will quickly come to learn about classrooms in South Africa is that there is nothing else like them in the world. Not everything about this environment is positive, but one thing that remains consistent is that children are always very appreciative of teachers who are committed and dedicated to their learning because these are often in very short supply.

With that being said, only the kind of teachers who want to be there and inspire a generation are the ones who are going to make a difference whether they work in a classroom on a paid basis or as a volunteers. It’s safe to say that you will encounter a wide variety of different challenges and obstacles during your time teaching as a TEFL teacher in South Africa, but the process can be highly rewarding.

With that being said, we would be remiss not to point out that there are certain challenges that you will probably encounter when trying to secure a paid teaching position in South Africa, and it’s important to keep these things in mind if you’re going to succeed. These are not meant to be reasons why you shouldn’t pursue this kind of career, but they do serve as important concepts to keep an eye on if you want to succeed.


After all, it is worth noting that South Africa has an incredibly diverse schooling system. There is a broad spectrum of different education providers, some are elite academies and others are rundown facilities with enough funding. Therefore, there are things to keep in mind. Let’s go over them.

1. Resources Are Usually Limited

Unfortunately, one of the first things that you come to realize about teaching in South Africa is that the resources available to you are quite limited. The ratio of students to teachers is much higher than in other parts of the world. For every one teacher, there can be up to 60 students.

The first, and most obvious problem with this type of setup is that not all students will get access to the support they need at any given point. It may be difficult for a single teacher to provide individual support for more than 60 students, which does create many problems. Furthermore, if a colleague is absent for whatever reason, then you may find yourself dealing with an even larger number of students as they attempt to compensate for the lack of staff.

Depending on the location you go to teach in South Africa, the amount of desks and chairs that are available for the students might be less than the number of students you have. You will also find that there probably aren’t enough materials for students to use or textbooks for them to read. Most students are used to this and are quite happy to share, but it might come as a surprise to anybody who’s not taught in South Africa before.

The bottom line is that you’re going to have to get creative if you want to teach students in the right way and give them a good quality education. It’s not going to be as simple as you want it to be.

2. Life Outside Class Matters

Regardless of where you choose to teach in the world, you will soon discover that life outside the classroom not only matters, but it can directly impact life inside the classroom. For South African pupils, the challenges they face are many and you should know about them.

First of all, a lot of children travel from all over the local area to attend a school. Some students travel miles just to get an education. They may often be fatigued or in a hurry to come and go. Second of all, a lot of young people live in disadvantaged conditions which means that they often come to school hungry. This can affect their performance so you have to be mindful of things going on within the home life of a student.

It is important to recognize these differences because they can impact your teaching experience.

3. Students Are Often Diverse

South Africa is an incredibly diverse location and there are students from all different backgrounds who are trying to learn under one roof. Multiculturalism has always been a strength within education because children need a diverse environment to learn and grow in – this is no different.

If you are going to successfully teach in South Africa, you have to learn the importance of embracing new cultures and ideas, integrating them into your classroom, and not shying away from an opportunity to be more diverse. If we celebrate the differences in our classrooms, then children will grow up happier and more tolerant of things that are different from what they know.

For example, despite the fact English is a popular language, it isn’t the primary language of choice in many smaller towns and rural areas. Indigenous languages will take center stage here – you will need to approach learning them with passion and commitment.

4. Most Are Welcoming

You should abandon any preconceptions you have about the population of a town or village before you meet the locals and get to know them. Most people will be perfectly welcoming and happy to help you. Volunteer teachers are particularly appreciated because your efforts to make a difference are recognized from the outset.

It’s best to try and integrate yourself into everyday life and get to know the locals – they will be of great help in understanding specific problems and maybe even finding a solution.

5. Your Work Will Be Rewarding

When you teach English as a foreign language in South Africa, there is no denying that you will have many challenges to face. However, despite this seemingly endless list of challenges to overcome, everybody agrees that teaching English as a foreign language is a very rewarding way to see the world and make a difference.

You will meet some incredible people and form meaningful relationships that may last the rest of your life. Above and beyond all of that, you have the opportunity to directly influence the life of a young person. You can teach them skills and habits that will help them excel, no matter what they may face. This is the kind of thing that every teacher wants from their career, and it’s available to you here in South Africa.

Teaching Jobs for South African TEFL Teachers in Mexico

Teach in Gauteng

It must be said there is no shortage of places to teach English as a foreign language in South Africa. Gauteng is just one of those places. Gauteng is a province in South Africa that is considered to be the industrial and economic hub of the country. Considering that the area is home to Pretoria, Johannesburg, and many others, it isn’t surprising to see how it gained this reputation.

Gauteng is widely considered to be the economic powerhouse of the country, with the major cities it hosts making up a lot of the economy. They offer a significant contribution to the GDP of the country, focusing heavily on tech, manufacturing, and finance.

It is also agreed that the province gets a large number of job seekers visiting. There are plenty of diverse roles available in a range of different markets and sectors, which means that the job market itself is often a highly diverse entity. As you probably expect from such a diverse place, there are people from different parts of the world here and different ethnic backgrounds, all working and living together in harmony. This contributes widely to a wide range of different cultural and exercise festivals that honor different traditions, customs, and religions.

Many parts of the area are quite modern, with current infrastructure being comparable to most of Western society. The area is also Home to one of the busiest airports in all of Africa, the O. R Tambo International Airport. There are many notable universities and educational areas, so those students who wish to take their knowledge to the next level can easily do so. Depending on where you go within the province, you will find different standards of living at different prices. However, it’s possible to work and commute to most areas whilst maintaining a comfortable budget.

All of this is to say that the area would be an amazing place for any new TEFL teacher to begin their career because it offers so much. You would be wise to take a look at all the different options that are available and then choose what’s best for you. We understand that it may seem like a daunting task to try and teach English as a foreign language, but you have to remember that there are many opportunities available for you. If you are a volunteer teacher, then you will be looked on very favorably by the locals, and this will help your transition into modern life. We wholeheartedly encourage you to pursue teaching English as a foreign language in this area, because it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

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