Teaching and Volunteering in South Africa

Profile picture of

View Profile All Posts
Written by: Ben Smith

A Placement in the Garden Route

South Africa was one of the most amazing places I have ever been to in my life! As most people would be, I was apprehensive before I went, but at the same time really excited. I was going halfway around the world to work with young people who were not as fortunate as myself.  I went to Knysna in the Garden Route to teach in the township. I had planned lots of different activities to cover in my classes and had a variety of materials with me to show the students.

Meeting the other volunteers

Once I arrived, it was time to meet the 12 other volunteers who were staying at the same house as me. Everyone seemed really friendly and they all had little bits of advice. It was great to sit out in the sun and have lunch. I was even lucky enough to meet the monkeys who visit from time to time to steel oranges. After the short break a couple of volunteers took me down town to the infamous Pick ‘n’ Pay! That evening the volunteers from the other house came up for their tea. Luckily there weren’t many staying in the other house so not too many names to remember.

I started my placement at Percy Mandala High School on the Wednesday and it was an interesting day. I was working in the school with three other volunteers: Mel, Luke and Claire. I met all the staff, who are nothing like teachers in the UK, mainly because they will get up and sing at any opportunity! I followed Luke around his classes just to get a feel for the school and how it worked. He was also teaching Drama as part of Arts and Culture. It was a bit manic in the classes, as the pupils make a lot of noise! So if you are ever preparing a lesson, you must remember that at least half the time will be spent keeping them quiet!

Teaching in South Africa

First visit to the orphanage

After school I had my first visit to the orphanage, which was again a really interesting experience. It was really heart-breaking to see the babies and children with no parents or families, but at the same it is so great that they have a group of people to look after them. I have never been in a group with so many different and big characters!

We spent a couple of hours and the orphanage and played with the kids. The girls had their hair styled, and the children got hold of wet wipes, so they were coming up to us and getting us to wipe their faces and hands.

As weeks went by, I started working on basic drama skills with my pupils, as they really had very little previous practical experience. So it was a case of going back to the basics and starting from scratch. I had to keep things simple so that the pupils could take in the material, and also had them up writing on the board and trying to encourage class discussion, but eventually it would end up in a racket!

When covering practical work, or when groups were rehearsing, we would go outside. It was nice to get out of my dull classroom, but trying to keep control is just as much fun outside! The pupils are all really lovely. Some are cheeky, and some are very quiet, but one thing is for sure….if you offer them a chance to dance, then they will be up on their feet in seconds. No two classes are the same.

Volunteering at the soup kitchen

The soup kitchen was another highlight of the week. A group of volunteers would go up on a Tuesday and Thursday after school and help dish out food and play with the children. Benjy who runs the Oupad Soup Kitchen is a great guy who gives up a lot of his own time to get food for the children. It is advisable to wear older clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty at the soup kitchen, as staying clean is not an option!

The children are guaranteed to climb all over you and they especially like to sit or stand on your shoulders, and just pull your head round in the direction they want it to go. Although the children run circles round you, it is quite a thing to see, when they all line up for their soup. They stand in order of height with the smallest at the front and they all pray. It is such a great thing to go and work with, and I would say your trip isn’t complete if you don’t go.

The best thing about my placement was the day my pupils created a short piece of drama on teenage pregnancy. It was fascinating to watch, as the pupils worked together and two of the girls made up a short song about pregnancy. The child would sing to her mother and the mother would reply. It was a great breakthrough! It restored my faith that what I was doing was getting through to them.

Exploring South Africa

Whilst in South Africa I got to go on some pretty amazing trips, from riding elephants to seeing whales and dolphins to canoeing up Knysna river. We often visited the Friday market just outside the town and had some really tasty food. We had a trip to Plett one weekend, and went sunbathing and swimming in the sea! Trips and activities are generally quite cheap and you can hire a car or get a taxi to take you. As far as going out in Knysna, a Friday is the best night and we usually ended up in Zanzibar. We had some fun nights out and it was great to relax and have fun after a busy week at school.

I learnt a lot about myself whilst in Africa and have certainly grown up a lot! I have made some great friends. There were a mix of ages and types of people, but I think that’s what makes the placement so fantastic. I would recommend this placement to somebody who has passion and is willing to go for it! You get out what you put in to the placement. If you go in with enthusiasm it will just encourage your students even more!

Check out these top volunteer teaching experiences


Tanzania Teaching Aid & Beaches

from £395.00

7 - 14 days

Your teaching aid assignment will integrate you into your host community. You'll help teach students basic English and other subjects...

Education and Community Support

from £845.00

14 - 84 days

Give back to those who are less fortunate by teaching English and other skills in a rural community of Tanzania....

Teach Children in Zambia

from £795.00

7 - 360 days

Working with children from 6 - 18 in a mixed school that is small but makes you feel part of...

Teaching in Tanzania

from £1.00

14 days

As a Teaching volunteer, you'll work at a school alongside experienced local teachers.

Teaching and Community Work in Ghana

from £2,500.00

60 - 360 days

Although Ghana is one of Africa's most stable countries, there are still many children and adults that live in poverty...

Madagascar Teaching Placement

from £895.00

28 - 70 days

Teach in a local school in one of the most extraordinary destinations on Earth. Provide vital basic skills, environmental education...

Teaching in Zanzibar

from £939.00

14 - 84 days

Located in a village right on the coast of Zanzibar, this project gives you the chance to assist with teaching,...

Teaching, Wildlife & Diving

from £845.00

14 - 84 days

With this project you will experience the best that Madagascar has to offer along with an unforgettable teaching experience in...

Sports and Surfing in South Africa

from £1,095.00

14 days

Visit amazing Cape Town in South Africa when you volunteer alongside an international team teaching underprivileged children from townships to...

Teaching & Community Development

from £845.00

10 - 84 days

Join us on our rewarding teaching project in the tourist town of Livingstone, very close to one of the Seven...

Check out these awesome tours!


Journey through Botswana

from £803.00


Whatever time you get in, we guarantee Jo’burg will be there to meet you at the airport. Botswana’s Khama Rhino...

South Africa: Hike & Bike

from £1,395.00

South Africa

Take part in a journey through South Africa's fantastically wild heartland. Beginning and ending in Cape Town, hike to the...

Best of Morocco

from £688.00


Travel to Morocco and visit the best of the country's attractions from Casablanca to Marrakech. Travel from the snow-capped Atlas...

Spain, Portugal, and Morocco Adventure

from £1,699.00

Morocco, Portugal, Spain

Quite a few civilizations have left their imprint on Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, but perhaps none so permeating as the...

Ultimate African Adventure 39 Day

Searching for the perfect antidote to the dreaded nine to five? Leave your cares at the office door as you...

Africa Encompassed Southbound

from £6,560.00


Want Africa with the lot? That's exactly what you'll get on this epic adventure across ten countries. Get breathtakingly close...

Southern African Adventurer

From Namibia’s giant sand dunes and the watery expanses of Bostwana’s Okavango Delta, to the slow-moving Zambezi River and the...

Delta & Falls Overland (Eastbound)

from £735.20

Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe

Feel the splash of the Okavango Delta from a dugout "mokoro" canoe and the mists of majestic Victoria Falls—described by...

Vic Falls to Stone Town

from £1,008.00

Tanzania, United Republic of

Dip into the incredible culture, wildlife, sights, sounds and way of life that every stop in Africa offers. Whether you’re...

Cape & Dunes Overland (Northbound)

from £1,061.65

Namibia, South Africa

Journey from the city streets of Cape Town to the desert of Namibia and experience the diversity of Africa on...

Find more teach abroad inspiration

[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]