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Primary School English Teacher

Project description

During President Nelson Mandela’s visit to the United States in October 1994, he invited the Peace Corps to South Africa to focus on two of South Africa’s highest priorities—education and HIV/AIDS. Since then, Volunteers have worked alongside community members on locally prioritized projects that build relationships, promote knowledge exchange, and make a lasting and measurable impact specifically in the areas of education and health.

The focus of the Literacy Enrichment Project (LEP) is for Volunteers to work alongside South African teachers to support English learning for children in their first three years of primary school. English language learning is a high priority of the South African government. English is the official language of instruction in the upper grade classrooms in South Africa and the Home (local) Language is the language of instruction in the lower grades. Volunteers will collaborate with South African teachers to support the English literacy learning and overall scholastic success of South African students.

Volunteers will be trained and expected to adhere to the curriculum provided by the Department of Education in South Africa. Primary School English Teacher Volunteers will work to support the goals of the South African Department of Education. These responsibilities include:
• Co-teaching the South African English curriculum to lower primary school aged students) in a classroom setting.
• Remedial English tutoring to small groups of students, up to grade 5.
• Co-creating, exchanging, and implementing learning strategies and resources in lower primary school.
• Possibly teaching two grades in the same classroom (multi-grade teaching).
• Co-developing student-centered learning and literacy enrichment strategies and practices.
• Supporting and collaborating with counterparts on other school-related activities including the development and promotion of libraries or reading corners.

Volunteers may also have the opportunity to collaborate with local partners on HIV prevention and mitigation secondary projects, specifically those that address the impact of the epidemic among youth. Additionally, Peace Corps South Africa collaborates with a range of partners on promoting gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. LEP Volunteers will receive training on gender dynamics in South Africa and will have the opportunity to co-implement culturally appropriate gender-related activities alongside community counterparts.

During Pre-Service Training (PST), Volunteers will begin learning and developing the skills and knowledge required for a successful service. PST is an intensive training period where Volunteers will live with a host family and receive training on key technical, intercultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the context of South Africa’s diverse rural and urban settings.

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.

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
• A demonstrated record of volunteerism that reflects a personal commitment to children, youth, and education
• Literacy tutoring or teaching experience with primary or middle school students
• Two years teaching or facilitating extracurricular activities for youth

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 critical to Volunteer success. By the end of Pre-Service Training, Trainees will be expected to meet language proficiency requirements measured at the end of PST and throughout service. Language possibilities include isiZulu, Sepedi, Setswana, isiNdebele.

Living conditions

After successfully completing Pre-Service Training, Volunteers will be assigned to work in a rural school. Typically, Volunteer housing is in the same community served by the school. It is likely you will live within the compound of a host family but have your own room/dwelling separate from the main house, or in a room that is attached to the house with its own entrance. Peace Corps ensures that all Volunteer housing meets a minimum standard, but housing varies widely in South Africa. Some Volunteers have running water and electricity, while many do not. 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.

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 in South Africa. During PST, the dress code is business casual. Following PST, you are expected to adhere to professional dress standards for work situations in your community. Professional dress implies dress slacks (no jeans), collared shirts long skirts, dresses, or dress slacks. Volunteers are expected to always maintain a clean and groomed appearance as this does affect the community’s perception of the volunteer.

South Africa is a diverse country with a complex history that continues to affect the country politically, economically, and socially. South Africa lived under the Apartheid system of institutionalized racial segregation between 1948 and 1994. Living and working in South Africa means negotiating economic disparity daily. 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, work and navigate issues such as post-trauma stress, economic challenges, interpersonal/intercultural challenges, and unresolved conflict that still present barriers to day-to-day work. Challenges Volunteers may face include harassment related to gender, skin color, socioeconomic status, and language. Peace Corps staff will support Volunteers with training on strategies to integrate and adapt effectively and appropriately to living and working in this new intercultural context.

Volunteers who identify as 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. 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 LGBTQI+ community are enshrined in the Constitution. While South Africa is generally tolerant; values, morals, and judgements concerning sexual orientation and gender identity often differ across the country. This is especially true in rural communities where Volunteers will be placed. 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. There are Peace Corps support networks and trainings in place for Volunteers navigating these challenges.

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

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

South Africa can accommodate couples in the same sector and support them living 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

Couples may be asked to work in the same school, with different defined roles, or may be placed with different schools 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.

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit:

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