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Volunteer Teaching in South Africa

Teach English and Other Subjects
  • Placement locations: Cape Town
  • Types of schools: Elementary
  • Age of students: 7 - 14
  • Class sizes: Up to 45
  • Role: Teaching assistant or teacher (IT, Literacy)
  • Requirements: None
  • Extra-curricular roles: Music, Sports
  • Accommodation: Host families
  • Length of placement: From 4 weeks
  • Start dates: Flexible

South Africa is a country of dramatic change and optimism, which is reflected in the schools in which we work. Projects Abroad’s volunteer Teaching projects are located in schools in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town. While the schools are mostly over-crowded, understaffed, and under-funded, an enthusiasm and a hope for the future is evident and volunteers are needed to cultivate this.

South Africa has a highly varied population; 41% of Cape Town residents speak Afrikaans at home, 29% speak Xhosa, and 28% speak English, with smaller percentages speaking any one of the eight other national tribal languages. Due to this cultural diversity, English is used as the main language of teaching in schools in Cape Town, even though it is not the first language of most of the students. Having a native English speaker is therefore particularly helpful.

You can volunteer as a teacher in South Africa during your gap year, career break, or volunteer vacation. You can make a meaningful contribution without any previous teaching experience, and we do not require you to have a TEFL qualification, though enthusiasm is vital.

Volunteering as a Teacher in South Africa

Volunteer on the Teaching project helps students with classwork in South Africa

Most Teaching volunteers get involved in at least two of the main three teaching areas, working as teaching assistants or participating in the literacy or music programs. If you have interests in other areas or specific teaching experience you would like to utilize please let us know when you apply.

You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our South Africa Teaching Management Plan.

Volunteer teachers in South Africa work in elementary schools in three main areas:

  • Teaching assistants
  • Literacy program
  • Music department

Volunteering as a Teaching Assistant

Did you know? A No-Fee Schools policy has been established in primary schools in South Africa, in hopes of attracting students who may not have attended due to financial constraints.

As a teacher’s assistant, you will be based in the classroom. You will work alongside a local teacher helping with all the subjects taught to the children. You may be expected to lead some lessons yourself after a few days. While you will have the basics of a blackboard and chalk, classrooms often lack other resources.

Remember that your most important resource is yourself, so try to draw on your experience and interests to bring the lessons alive. Bringing items from home such as photos, stickers, and magazines can be great for building lessons around, and our Teaching booklet will also give you plenty of ideas.

Volunteering on the Literacy Program

A student and volunteer teacher talk during class at a school in Cape Town, South Africa

The reality of South Africa’s education system is that some of our partner schools only have a literacy rate of less than 50 percent. With over 40 children per class, it is easy for students with difficulty reading to not receive proper attention. Volunteers are therefore part of a vital literacy program where they work with small groups of children. This way, volunteers are able to give children struggling to learn to read the extra attention they need and help them to improve their reading skills.

Volunteering in the Music Department

Although public schools in South Africa are often lacking in resources, in many schools there are passionate teachers who focus on music as a form of positive enrichment. The aim of the schools is to have a full marching band. As a volunteer you can assist in the music department, using any skills you may have to improve the quality of music education at the school.

Volunteering at a Teaching Placement in South Africa with Projects Abroad

Older volunteer teaches a class of young children in a school in South Africa

The schools in South Africa have their main vacation periods from about mid-December to mid-January, with shorter breaks over Easter, between June and July, and for one week in October. Alternative projects involving informal teaching are available during these times and our local staff will advise you of exact dates after you apply.

If you have knowledge of IT then you could teach some basic computer skills at our Teach IT project in South Africa. It is possible to teach IT alongside the other Teaching options too. Please let us know when you apply if this appeals to you. Alternatively, if you’d like to focus on teaching sports within a school, your help would be welcomed on our Teach Physical Education project in South Africa. The Teach Physical Education projects in South Africa cannot be combined with Teaching, as they require a full-time commitment.

All volunteers participating on standard projects in South Africa have the opportunity to spend one week on a Conservation & Environment project at the end of their main placement. For more information, please visit our African Bushveld Conservation & Environment Project in South Africa page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.

Teach Physical Education Teach IT Teaching Management Plan

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