Becoming a teacher in South Africa

The South African classroom is like no classroom you’ll find in any other school anywhere in the world. Perhaps I am a little biased, but as a result of extenuating circumstances, most of which are not particularly pleasant, you’ll find special children who are most appreciative of dynamic and motivated teachers in nearly any classroom in South Africa. Therefore, the kind of teachers who really want to be there, who want to inspire, and who want to make a difference make the best teachers in South Africa.

Things to know before teaching

On a daily basis, the things you say and do during your career as a teacher will undeniably leave a lasting impression on at least one of your students. Between your positive energy and unique motivation (because, let’s be honest, these are the traits of anyone who chooses to become a teacher), you will be inspiring young people, instilling in them the confidence and a belief that they can be or do anything they want to. This is a noble and valiant purpose that you should always keep in the forefront of your mind as a teacher in South Africa, or anywhere for that matter.

No matter the challenges you face in the classroom, teaching truly leaves a positive impact on your students, their families, and their future.

South Africa is a country of dramatic change and optimism, and these notions are clearly reflected in the schools and their children. The schooling system in South Africa is extremely diverse, with prominent and expensive private schools on one end of the spectrum and run-down, understaffed, poorly resourced schools on the other. There is a demand for volunteer teachers and assistants to help students at the latter schools in particular, which tend to be located in South Africa’s townships and rural communities that face an array of different challenges. Therefore, every teacher should know the following things before they consider getting into the career:

1. Educational resources (including teachers) is limited, especially in public schools. Don’t expect a treasure trove of crayons and markers to greet you in your classroom. The student per teacher ratio is generally much higher than any teacher would hope for; with overwhelming numbers, like 45 to 60 students to one teacher, it is easy for students with difficulty reading and writing to not receive the attention they need to progress.

3. Students come from different backgrounds, both cultural and educational.

South Africa is a melting pot of different people and cultures, and it is this fact that makes it such an exciting place to teach.

4. Cherish the relationships you build within the community.

The community respect and appreciate teachers and professionals who give tirelessly to help improve the conditions of their communities and give their children a better education.

5. …and, most importantly, the work will be incredibly rewarding.

Despite the daily challenges of being a teacher in South Africa, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. The light bulb moments, when you start to see the results of all your hours of hard work, will be worth it. When students start to understand the lessons you’ve been teaching, you’ll realize how much you’ve really taught them.

 But even more than the academic achievements will be the personal ones; the relationships formed, the bonds created, the mutual respect shared, and the moments of gratitude and appreciation, or the way faces light up when you walk into a room. When you start to recognise the difference you are making in the lives of these incredible little people, those are the moments you’ll treasure and the faces you’ll remember long after you’ve retired.


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