Proudly proclaimed by the locals as the Gateway to Africa, Ghana is a great introduction to the immense continent. Safe, affordable, and welcoming, this is the spot for teachers who want a unique challenge, are self-motivated, and want to have a real impact on the day-to-day lives of their students. In addition to the rewarding work you can accomplish teaching in Ghana in the classroom, the lifestyle in Ghana is so drastically different from the Western world that you will have a blast navigating your incredible, new home too!
Accra, the capital, is the city where you will look the least out of place as the locals are more accustomed to foreigners. Teaching in Accra will be more standardized and the pay will be higher, but so will the cost of living. There may be more schools with open teaching jobs in Accra, but it may also be more difficult to find a gig since it’s a bustling city with more competition.
The smaller city of Cape Coast is just a few hours away and is right on the water. A university is located in Cape Coast, making it a place that caters to education and volunteers who want to teach English in Ghana. You will also find a historical slave castle, several volunteer offices, and easy access to the ocean.
The northern region is almost an entirely different universe from the rest of the country and it is a little more conservative. You will see flatter, browner lands and will be able to visit Mole National Park. In the Volta region, you will discover lush, green spaces and waterfalls, as well as several monkey sanctuaries (yep, you can casually hang out with monkeys).
For your days off, Cape Three Points has the most pristine and untouched beach in Ghana. You will be isolated on this picturesque coastline and will meet many travelers looking to get away and unwind.
If you teach English in Ghana in rural areas, nearly everyone in the village will know your name and you may be expected to meet with the chief, occasionally. A trip to the market in these areas may cost you a couple dollars for groceries and thirty or so conversations for the time. Having this kind of community support will not only benefit your teaching job but will also enhance your overall daily experience.
Teaching in Ghana
There are many subjects you can choose to teach in Ghana because of the great need for education. However, expect there to be some work involved when teaching the arts, as these subjects are not typically given much weight in the classroom (hopefully, you can change this!). English is always a desired field for teaching in Ghana; but also plan to have some side subjects prepared, you will likely be asked to help in other areas even if you choose to specifically teach English in Ghana. Other opportunities for teaching in Ghana include helping with education projects related to health and sanitation, which have the power to go a long way in some communities.
As far as your schedule goes, you can expect a normal work week teaching English in Ghana (Monday through Friday and around 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). There will be several breaks throughout the year that can range anywhere from a day to a month. Additionally, it won’t be difficult to take time off from your teaching job in Ghana—it’s usually on a “ask and you shall receive” basis.
The primary language in Ghana is English. But throughout the country, there are roughly seventy different dialects of local languages; some of them are tricky and subtle in their pronunciation while others are a little more straightforward and often interchangeable. Due to the nation’s colonial history, many locals speak at least some English. However, the locals will be thoroughly impressed at any (poor) attempt you make to speak the language. A simple “meda ase” (Thank you) can elicit cries of elation while a stronger grasp of the language will gain you the respect of the community.
In a typical classroom environment, you can expect most of the students to dawn school-colored uniforms with the age range of students varying from class to class. Due to money or time issues, many students don’t have the opportunity to stay in school throughout consecutive grade levels and take time off at various stages in their academic career. As a result, your classes may be very diverse.
Outside of the bigger cities, most school buildings will be low lying structures made of wood or concrete with open doors and windows. This open planning will be a blessing on 100 degree days with 80 percent humidity. Also, keep in mind that you will likely be working on chalkboards and dirt floors with little technology while teaching abroad in Ghana.
Salary & Costs
Average pay is around $500 per month for teaching jobs in Ghana, but the good news is Ghana is affordable and you can get by on next to nothing. If you’re truly living local, you can find a pretty filling meal at most food stands for around 1 Ghanaian Cedi (roughly 30 cents). In this price range, you can grab some waakye (watch – E), a beans/rice/noodles concoction served in a plastic sandwich sack (bite off the corner and enjoy) or try red red—a beans and plantains staple of Ghanaian cuisine very easily.
Public transportation is cheap and understandably so due to it’s rather unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable nature. However, it’s always an experience. A tro (shared van) ride for a journey of three to five hours will likely be in the 12 GHS range (approximately $3.65) – be sure to try this at least once. A cab ride within smaller towns can be as low as 25 cents, but this price is much higher in cities like Accra.
In many teaching jobs in Ghana, housing costs are covered. However, if housing isn’t included, you can sometimes find a place for as little as 90 GHS a month! Of course, in city centers prices can be as high as $900 a month. In many cases, rent is paid upfront to the landlord for the entire year, which makes it easy on your monthly budgeting.
Accommodation & Visas
Living arrangements in Ghana can vary greatly. You may end up in your own home with several rooms, security guards, and private garden or you could be sharing a 10 by 10 room with two other people with no kitchen or bathroom. No matter what your living situation, though, air conditioning will be considered a luxury. If you have it, your teacher friends will surely be jealous.
To teach in Ghana, you will need two things—a valid visa and a Yellow Fever vaccination card. Getting your visa is relatively easy and can be done through any embassy. Simply fill out the appropriate forms and send them in along with your passport and payment. It’ll cost $100 for a multiple entry visa that’s valid for 60 days, and expect the turn around to take a couple weeks.
If you need to renew your visa while teaching English in Ghana and don’t want to deal with forms, you can simply take a vacation to neighboring Togo—your visa is automatically renewed every time you leave. A yellow fever vaccination can be obtained at most travel clinics (be sure to get some malaria medication while you’re there) and is valid for 10 years. You will be required to show your yellow fever certificate upon entry into Ghana.
Benefits & Challenges
- The Job Market. Luckily for you, it is relatively easy to score a teaching job in Ghana. Unfortunately for Ghana, it is in such need of good educators that with almost no credentials at all, almost anyone can find a way to teach in Ghana.
- Teacher vs. Foreigner. You’ll have to work to get your students to see a difference. The first time you step in front of a classroom full of curious or blank stares may be rather intimidating, but once your presence is established, you will command a lot of control over the classroom.
- Be Ready for Anything. One thing that you should understand before you teach in Ghana is that no matter what you have been trained to do/signed up for/planned out in detail, you will likely be doing something else entirely. Be prepared to go with the flow and work with the needs and resources of the school.
- Yes Is Sometimes No. Ghanians may say yes to something that may or may not happen (or might happen a few months down the road) because they don’t want to let you down by saying no. Almost everyone will want to talk to you so you’ll quickly learn some of the nuances.
- Pace of Living. From school projects to simply walking into town, things tend to move a bit slower in Ghana. Once you get used to it, though, the relaxed lifestyle is something you’ll miss once you return home.
- Safety. Be sure to stay alert around the tourist sites and when you’re alone at night. However, Ghana is one of the safer destinations you can choose for teaching abroad, so don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in the culture!