Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Teacher

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

Project Description

Strong English language skills increase educational and professional opportunities for citizens in many of the countries in which Peace Corps Volunteers serve. However, primary and secondary schools in Benin have not always been effective in teaching English language. Beninese teachers often do not have access to training in current practices and techniques for teaching English and some do not have a command of English themselves. Many schools in Benin lack teaching and learning materials and resources needed to support teachers to provide quality English instruction. Finally, while parents and communities have an important role to play in supporting acquisition of English language skills, this support may be lacking in communities where the value of English language skills is not recognized.

As a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Volunteer, you will address your school and community’s needs through achieving the following goals:

1. Building counterpart teacher capacity by facilitating teaching Communities of Practice and co-teaching classes.
2. Improving student achievement in English.
3. Encouraging community engagement in school improvement and student learning.

Volunteers will be enrolled in the TEFL Certificate Program. This program provides 120 hours of standardized training and practice teaching along with 2 years of supervised teaching experience. Upon successful completion of program requirements, Volunteers will earn a Peace Corps TEFL Certificate. The Certificate program is validated by the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC, and is a recognized TEFL credential for teaching both in the U.S. and abroad.

Primary Duties:
• Writing lesson plans, quizzes, and exams.
• Teaching 4-5 middle school English classes per year, with class sizes ranging from 40-70 students, using student-centered teaching methods to encourage critical thinking and prepare students for national examinations. This amounts to approximately 25 – 30 hours of work each week, including some secondary activities.
• Collaborating with local teachers by co-planning lessons and co-teaching.
• Motivating students to learn English by integrating themes such as malaria prevention, food security, hygiene & sanitation, and gender equity.
• Attending weekly faculty meetings, grading, and supervising exams.
• Participating in six online discussion sessions for TEFL certification.
• Working with Parent/Teacher Association members to increase their awareness of education and their connection to the school.
• Creating and facilitating an English club.

Secondary Activities
Initiating secondary projects in addition to your primary assignment can greatly enhance your Volunteer experience. Some examples are planting gardens, painting murals, and giving health lessons.

Gender Activities
Peace Corps Benin promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training throughout your service on gender challenges in Benin, and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. This may include clubs and sports teams.

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 and follow the TEFL Certificate Curriculum.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have teaching, tutoring, or mentoring experience with middle school or high school aged students in rural or inner-city school communities, or general youth development experience.

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Satisfactorily completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language
B. Satisfactorily completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework (or equivalent classes at Alliance Française, etc.) in a Romance language within the past 6 years
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker

Although Volunteers are teaching English, the official language of all Beninese schools is French. There are several local languages in Benin including: Fon, Mina, Adja, Bariba, Yoruba, and Dendi, to name a few, however French is used as the official language in the Beninese governmental system. Teachers are trained and assigned centrally by the Ministry of Education, and therefore, many teachers are not from the community in which they teach. As a result, they do not speak the local language and French is the common language for all professional interactions. Teachers in rural communities are usually amongst the most educated members of the community, and thus, teachers in Benin place a high emphasis on proper French grammar and usage. In order for Volunteers to integrate into the school community and garner the respect of colleagues within the educational system, proficiency in oral and written French prior to arrival in country is strongly preferred.

Benin has dedicated Language and Cross Culture Facilitators (LCFs) to teach French and local languages during Pre-Service Training (PST). In addition, you will be supported throughout your service by a full-time Language Coordinator who monitors each Volunteer’s progress in French and the local language.

Volunteers are expected to learn French and achieve an intermediate-high level by the conclusion of Pre-Service Training. By the end of the first year of service, Volunteers in every sector are expected to have utilized all language acquisition opportunities in order to achieve an advanced-low level of French, as well as a novice-mid level of the local language.

French language skills are not required pre-arrival, but highly recommended to facilitate language training and cultural integration. Candidates with no or low-level French language skills are strongly encouraged to take a French course or make a commitment to self‐study prior to departure in order to prepare for living and working in Benin. There are numerous free on-line French language resources available. Upon arrival, you will be tested on your ability in spoken French for language class placement. If you are an experienced French speaker and test at a higher level from the beginning of PST, you will begin learning Fon, a local language widely spoken in Benin.

In addition to French, you will be strongly encouraged to learn the local language spoken in your assigned community (this may or may not be Fon). Learning at least the basic greetings in the local language(s) spoken in your community is essential for successful integration, and depending on the French level of the community, your community may require you to achieve a certain level in local language. Having an interest in a deeper study of local language, which most often will occur at site in the form of self-study, will help you connect more directly with community members when you are not teaching at the local school, particularly with women, who may not have finished school and therefore may not speak French. Peace Corps Benin will provide you with resources for your continued language learning during your first year of service, including identifying and training a language tutor at your site.

Living Conditions

Volunteers in Benin live in semi-urban centers, rural towns, and villages. Housing is provided by the host organization and may vary in size and amenities. Houses are normally located in a compound with other families. A typical house for a Volunteer has one main room, a bedroom, a kitchen area, and a private bathing area and latrine. In more rural areas, you may not have running water or electricity.

Access to Western foods may be limited and Volunteers will have to adapt their diet to local foods such as rice and "pâte", with various leaf and peanut sauces, local vegetables such as okra, eggplant, tomatoes, and various kinds of meat. Other protein sources are local cheese, beans, and soy products. Peanuts and tree nuts are part of the staple diet. Couscous, pasta, and bread are readily available. Access to fruits, vegetables, and proteins will also vary by region and season.

Many of Benin’s roads and means of public transportation are in poor condition, with car taxis or motorcycle taxis used as the main transportation for many people. Approved in-country transportation options for Volunteers may be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you will be advised on the safest options during training and throughout service.

Many Volunteers use a bicycle as their principal means of local transportation. If you need a bicycle, Peace Corps will provide one or the means to purchase one, and you will need to be in decent shape or be willing to improve your physical fitness.

You are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop to complete required reports and assignments offline to upload later. Tablets and smart phones are not great alternatives due to software issues. In your community, internet is generally through cell signal and connection quality varies in rural areas. There are regional workstations with computers and Wi-Fi access for Volunteers.

Your behavior and attire will be judged according to Benin’s cultural norms. Long pants, blouses/shirts, skirts and dresses (below the knee) and nice sandals or shoes are appropriate for work. Dressing inappropriately (shorts, halters tops, short skirts, tight or low-cut blouses, spaghetti straps, dirty/torn clothing), will make it difficult to be accepted in your community, while appropriate dress will earn you respect, facilitate integration, increase professional effectiveness and decrease unwanted attention.

In Benin, beards, braids (corn row type), locs, and long hair on men are unusual. All men are encouraged to adjust to the local hairstyle (low cut/short). Many male Volunteers have chosen to shave their facial hair or cut their hair to facilitate integration. Many female Volunteers wear their hair back in a ponytail or bun, short, or in braids or locs. Regardless of gender, Volunteers should keep their hair clean, neat and well groomed.

Religious tolerance is respected in Benin. Benin has three main religions: Islam is primarily in the north, Christianity is primarily in the south, and the religious and cultural practice of Animism (Voodoo) traditional religion is common throughout the country. Many Beninese maintain a strong belief in both Voodoo and another major religion. Voodoo in Benin is very different from how it is represented by Hollywood.

While people in Benin may be generally tolerant, values and norms concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in some parts of the U.S. There are laws in Benin that target certain acts with individuals of the same sex. People in the LGBTQ community in Benin continue to face widespread persecution and are rarely open about their sexuality. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and laws and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and current Volunteers will address this topic during training and identify support mechanisms for Volunteers.

Serving in Benin

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Benin: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Benin is happy to accommodate couples, as long as each person is in a different sector program. Your partner must qualify and apply for either:

Rural Community Health Volunteer
Sustainable Agricultural Systems Volunteer

During the 11-week Pre-Service Training, couples will live and train in separate villages. Couples will see each other once a week during core curriculum days (joint sector training days) where all trainees will participate in full group training sessions. Once at their permanent site, couples will live in the same house and will work in the same community.

Going through the Peace Corps experience as a couple poses unique opportunities and challenges, and success will require trust, confidence, and communication. There will be times when you will both need each other’s support. Understand that you will need to put in an extra effort to be an ally to your partner. Although you will not be able to eliminate many of these challenges for each other, they can be coped with and overcome with time, patience, and most importantly, a good sense of humor.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.

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