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With a population of 700 million and a land mass three times that of the U.S., Africa is second only to Asia in people and size. Africa is divided into 54 countries (including six island states) and they vary from the large to the small, the rich to the poor. The continent’s powerhouses are South Africa and Nigeria, though the countries bordering the Mediterranean also have quite high standards of living. A number of countries are landlocked, while others boast beautiful coastlines (including Africa’s biggest country: Sudan) and clear blue seas. Africa has a number of natural resources—most notably in oil and mining—though drought, shortages of food and corruption all hamper development and the day to day lives of many. Regardless of this, Africa is a popular tourist destination, especially for those hooked on adrenaline. White water rafting, the world’s highest bungee jump, world-famous scuba diving and snow-capped volcanic peaks (on the equator!) are all available. The less adventurous can suntan on beaches along most of Africa's coastline, play a round of golf on one of Africa's fabulous courses or sip a cocktail while watching the red African sun set over a waterhole as the elephants come down to drink. And then there are all those all too familiar African tourist attractions from Egypt's Pyramids in the North to Cape Town's Table Mountain in the South, from the mysterious markets of Timbuktu and Marrakech in the West to the coral reefs of Zanzibar in the East.
The lifestyle of TESL teachers in Africa depends largely on for whom they work and where they live. Teachers working for oil companies or large city-based NGOs end up living an ‘expat’ lifestyle. This often involves eating at Western-style restaurants, socializing at friend’s homes and games of tennis on a Saturday afternoons. For those working more ‘in the field’ and especially for those volunteering (the Peace Corps are one big employer in this category) then life is much more rustic: home is often similar to that which locals use and there may not be too many other Westerners around (say, for 200 miles). In rural areas, classes are normally during the day and many are for young learners. Working for the oil companies is usually also a day-time job, but your students will almost always be adults, not children. Teaching in places like Tunisia and Morocco is often similar to teaching in Europe—evening and Saturday work. Because of the huge variety of different countries in Africa, the reason why teachers go there is equally diverse, and so are the benefits that they get. A number of teachers who venture out into more remote places pick up quite a bit of the local language, through necessity if nothing else. At the other end of the extreme, a teacher working for an oil company in Libya could remain perfectly isolated from the day-to-day lives of the surrounding locals if they choose.
People, culture, politics
Corruption, nepotism, famine and war are all common occurrences in some parts of Africa. While none of these are insurmountable, they do play heavily on people’s day-to-day lives. Religion has always been central to people’s lives in Africa. Although the majority of Africans are now Muslim or Christian, traditional religions have endured and still play a big role. Much of Africa's cultural activity centers on the family and the ethnic group. Art, music, and oral literature serve to reinforce existing religious and social patterns. African traditional culture, though once on the decline, is now in the ascendance in step with the rise of African nationalism. Politically, the story of Africa is pitiful. Whilst most countries have had elections at one point or another, few were considered fair and only once in the history of the continent has one elected party been voted out of office to be replaced by another.
- Although there has been a move among locals toward a more Westernized approach to time, the traditional African view is based on a circular concept. This concept is an acceptance of an external locus of control, as opposed to the linear concept where a person has the ability to determine his or her own destiny.
- In most parts of Africa, a limp handshake is the correct way to do it. Furthermore, it is common in Africa for a handshake to last several minutes.
- Some cultures in Africa are sexist in nature. For example, in some traditional southern African cultures, a woman cannot own property. Also, in most cases women are expected to accept a handshake, not offer one.
- The complex, changing and sometimes taxing African environment requires teachers working there to have a degree of flexibility and adaptability.
- Eye contact, considered a mark of trust or truthfulness in many parts of the world, may, as a mark of respect, be avoided when some Africans are talking to their superiors.
- In many African countries, using the left hand to receive or give a gift is considered impolite.
Recruitment and Positions
In Sub-Sahara Africa most positions are given to people who apply directly to the school or are already living (or traveling) locally. Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa rarely or never advertise their posts. It is also possible to acquire work through NGOs (like the Peace Corps) and teachers considering this route should either apply directly to the organization or check out their website for vacancies. Finding work in North Africa is much easier. For example, oil companies in Libya advertise vacancies quite frequently. Egypt has a large ESL industry (see the section on The Middle East). Tunisia and Morocco also have growing markets for ESL, and applicants should apply directly to the school whenever possible or travel to the country to apply in person. Ultimately, adventure-seeking CELTA teachers will find work wherever they wish if they are willing to look hard enough. In that respect, Africa (North or South) is no different from anywhere else.
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