Primary School English Teacher

Currently, departure timelines are not available and the Peace Corps is not issuing invitations to serve. Once we begin issuing invitations, applicants will have a minimum of three to four months’ notice between invitation and departure.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change.

Project Description

During President Nelson Mandela’s visit to the United States in October 1994, he invited the Peace Corps to set up a program in South Africa and focus on two of South Africa’s highest priorities—education and HIV/AIDS. Since then, Volunteers have been addressing the needs of those still living in underdeveloped and rural communities, threatened by HIV and in need of educational support. While the government, alongside many organizations, is working to address these issues, underserved rural areas continue to struggle to meet the needs for community outreach, education and assistance. The education needs of all schools, but rural schools in particular, have increased since early 2020 due to COVID-19 and the resulting disruptions in schooling. In many areas, children have fallen behind the curriculum in all subjects and a concerted effort must be made to assist them in catching up on missed work.

The main focus of the Literacy Enrichment Project (LEP) is to teach English to children in the first three years of their primary school education. English language learning is a high priority of the South African government to enable students to be successful in today’s world. English is the official language of instruction in the upper grade classrooms in South Africa and the local language is the language of instruction in the lower grades. However, in many rural areas, teachers must rely upon local language to explain things to students who have limited exposure to English. Class sizes are often large and teachers typically have limited time to provide individual support.

As a Primary School English Teacher, you will work to support the goals of the South African Department of Education. Volunteers will be expected to adhere to the curriculum provided by the Department of Education in South Africa. Your responsibilities include:
• Independently teaching the English curriculum to students aged around 5 – 10 years (Grades 1-3).
• Remedial English tutoring to small groups of students up to grade 3.
• Possibly teaching two grades in the same classroom (multi-grade teaching).
• Promoting student-centered learning and literacy enrichment.
• Supporting school-related activities including the development and promotion of libraries.

You will also have the opportunity to work on HIV prevention and mitigation secondary projects, specifically those that address the impact of the epidemic among youth. Additionally, Peace Corps South Africa promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in South Africa and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate.

During Pre-Service Training (PST), you will start learning and developing the skills and knowledge you need to accomplish these tasks. This is an intensive training period where you will live with a local family and be trained on key technical, cross-cultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the context of South Africa’s diverse rural and urban settings.

Serving as a Primary School English Teacher in South Africa will give you first-hand experience in a variety of fields including project management, teaching, inter-cultural competence, monitoring and evaluation and community organizing, to name a few. The skills you bring to South Africa and the ones you learn there can make a very real difference in people’s lives, both yours and those of the people with whom you work.

NOTE: Due to the South African visa requirements, if you have ever been cited for, arrested, charged with, or convicted of any offense, regardless of whether a citation, charge, arrest, or conviction has been sealed, dismissed, or expunged from your record (excluding minor traffic violations, traffic citations, and parking tickets), you should be aware that your visa application may be rejected and you may want to consider serving in a country other than South Africa.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Pre-school, Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary Education
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with Elementary Education state certification
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with 1 or more school years classroom teaching experience at the Early Childhood, Middle School, or Elementary level. Full time Montessori teaching experience is also acceptable

The most competitive candidates will have:
• A strong desire to work with children in kindergarten to third grade
• Literacy tutoring or teaching experience with primary or middle school students
• Two years teaching or facilitating extracurricular activities for youth
• A demonstrated record of volunteerism that reflects a personal commitment to children, youth, and education/learning

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

While you are not expected to know a South African language before arrival, learning the assigned South African language is an integral part of your success, and provides a deeper and more rewarding experience. By the end of Pre-Service Training, Trainees will be expected to meet certain language proficiency requirements. Language possibilities include isiZulu, Xitsonga, Sepedi, Setswana, isiNdebele, Tshivenda.

Living Conditions

After training, you will be assigned to work in a rural, under-resourced school. Typically, housing is located in the same community served by the school. It is likely you will live with a host family, but have your own room/dwelling separate from the host family or in a room that is attached to the house with its own entrance. Peace Corps ensures that all housing meets a minimum standard, but Volunteer housing varies widely in South Africa. While you may have housing with running water and/or electricity, the majority of Volunteers do not have running water and some have no access to electricity. Volunteers with access to electricity often experience significant outages for hours or days at a time. Many Volunteers have access to the internet via smartphones, although the signal can be inconsistent and lapses in coverage are common. You should be willing to live in rural and low resourced conditions and to walk up to six miles daily getting to and from work, markets and community activities.

The Department of Education will provide basic furnishing including a single bed, mattress, and dresser or closet. The Peace Corps will provide you with a settling-in allowance that will enable you to purchase sheets, blankets, pots and pans, water storage containers and other household necessities.

Personal appearance is important to people in South Africa. During PST, the dress code is business casual. Following PST, you will need to dress appropriately for work situations in your community. Volunteers are expected to be clean and presentable at all times. Professional dress means nice slacks (no jeans) and a collared shirt for men, and modest skirts, dresses, or dress slacks for women. Hair must be clean and well groomed.

South Africa is an exceedingly diverse country with a complex history that continues to affect the country politically, economically, and socially. Living and working in South Africa means negotiating extreme economic disparity on a daily basis. Volunteers must be aware of this and consider the resulting stress and challenges. The post-apartheid reality of South Africa means that Volunteers should be prepared to live and work in a ‘post-conflict’ area and to navigate issues such as post-trauma stress, economic challenges, interpersonal/intercultural challenges, and unresolved conflict that still present barriers to day-to-day work. A common challenge Volunteers face is harassment related to gender, skin color, socioeconomic status, language, etc. Peace Corps will support Volunteers as they learn to navigate this environment. Despite these challenges, Volunteers can expect welcoming communities where people continue to turn their struggles into positive experiences.

Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from South Africans. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, sharing American values and deepening local community members’ understanding of Americans.

South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage and the rights of LGBTQ+ community are enshrined in the Constitution. However, while South Africa is generally tolerant, values, morals, and judgements concerning sexual orientation and gender identity often differ widely in rural communities where Volunteers serve. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Serving in South Africa

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in South Africa: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

South Africa is able to accommodate couples in the same sector that allow them to remain together during the entirety of Pre-Service Training and two years of service. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for:
• Primary School English Teacher
• Primary School English Teacher Trainer

Couples may be asked to work in the same organization, with different defined roles, or may be placed with different organizations that are in close proximity. Couples will live together and will be in similar housing to other volunteers. Couples will either live with a host family or in their own separate building. Housing will be large enough to host two people.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.


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