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How can African schools compete in the global race for international teachers

Many of the schools I work with in Africa are overwhelmed by international competition for teachers. They feel they can’t compete with the salaries in places like the Middle East and worry that teachers consider their country poor or unsafe (or both!)?

They fret, worry, and inadvertently shut out their dream teachers – because they’ve forgotten just who their dream teachers are. Sometimes, they’ve even forgotten what their school has to offer.

It’s true, a teacher focused solely on their bank balance may not be interested in African schools, but there are plenty of other teachers out there with different priorities. From a love of adventure, to the desire to make a difference in a community, there is no shortage of reasons why teachers would choose Africa.

It’s time African international schools pushed aside some of those worries, swung open the doors and embraced their identity. Don’t worry about the paychecks dragging some teachers to other countries, focus instead on the teachers who want to teach in Africa.

1. Your location is teacher-bait. Dangle those unique experiences where teachers can see them.

One of the big mistakes schools make is ignoring the travel aspect of international teaching. I’ve seen schools dismiss wonderful teachers because they were concerned that the teacher’s only priority was travel and adventure. That’s rarely the case. Teaching is hardly a get-rich-quick scheme. And most qualified candidates are going to have the student’s best interests at heart, even if they are prone to a bit of globe trotting.

International teachers have often chosen their career path because they love to travel. But these are often the very teachers I see being discriminated against in the recruitment process. Which is a shame! These are the teachers who want to embrace your culture and customs, why not hire them?

It would be a lot worse if you ended up recruiting a teacher who hated adventure. They’d sulk for months, only wanting to eat McDonalds. Maybe they would insist on doing things exactly as they did them at home.

Don’t think of “travel” as a dirty word – you can and should be using travel and adventure as a competitive advantage over schools in other regions. Use it to rope in the adventurers, the teachers who will love and cherish their time in Africa.

Your job postings are your opportunity to sell not only your school but also your location. Africa has so many unique qualities, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not pointing them out. Make sure you highlight any unique opportunities your location has to offer travel-minded candidates – whether it’s exotic birds, boating along the Nile, watersports, a bustling marketplace, safari adventures, or a specific kind of food or drink…the list is endless!

Take a step back and think about what you love about where you live, then go from there. This is your opportunity to showcase the best bits of living and working in Africa.

2. Emphasize career progression. Let teachers see your commitment to them.

While salary and bonus came out on top overall in our survey of over 12,000 international teaching candidates this year, we also saw professional development and career progression featuring almost as high on your candidate’s wishlist. Great teachers want to know they can grow, develop and stretch their creative muscles. They want to know they will have autonomy in the classroom and be able to impact their student’s lives.

If there are options at your school for candidates to take on additional responsibilities beyond their usual teaching responsibilities, or if your school makes a professional development a priority, then make sure your job posts are making the most of that.

Give it its own paragraph! Put it in bold! Teachers are only human, and seeing that a school cares about their longterm career can influence their decision. You’ll be surprised by the response from teachers who are looking for a little something more from their next position.

2. Honesty is the only policy. Especially with Google looking over your shoulder.

There’s no point lying about anything. You’re looking for teachers who can embrace the specific challenges your school faces – so explain those challenges and don’t shy away from the truth. Before a candidate will consider signing a contract with your school, they’re going to need to trust you.

With under a quarter of international teaching candidates expressing concern over their personal safety when making the move abroad, you can be sure they’re doing their homework on that front. And if a quick Google reveals a couple of startling facts that you haven’t divulged, then you can probably say goodbye to that teacher.

If you’re living in an area that is going through political upheaval or faces other obstacles, you’re going to have to work a little harder than schools in other locations to build trust. You need to be honest about your school’s situation and make them comfortable with challenges ahead.

There are a few easy steps you can take to alleviate concerns and paint your school in a positive light:

  • Be transparent.
    Outline the situation in your country, especially if it’s facing any political or disease-related issues. Teachers will appreciate the honesty a lot more than finding out themselves on the big bad Google.
  • Ease their worries.
    Outline the steps your school is taking to protect staff. This should reassure most candidates.
  • Put them in touch with other teachers at your school.
    Nothing goes farther than the word of a peer. Put your existing staff in touch with candidates. They can find out what life is really like both and in and out of the walls of your school.

All of the above will help candidates feel secure, ease insecurities and alleviate negative perceptions.

3. Waiting until you’ve got a vacancy is too late. Stay ahead with a proactive recruitment strategy instead.

In our second annual international educator survey, 24% of respondents put Africa in their top 3 preferred teaching destinations. That’s almost a quarter of teaching candidates who would be happy to teach in Africa.

So maybe, when it comes to hiring overseas teachers, the problem isn’t that your school is in Africa. It’s that teachers don’t know that schools in Africa are recruiting. Schools in other countries are flooding the internet with their positions and opportunities all year round, but there’s nowhere near as much information available online about teaching in Africa.

What does this mean for you? It means you’ll need to start your recruitment earlier than you might be accustomed to. Our data suggests that international educators are starting their job searches earlier and earlier and taking the time to find the opportunity that’s right for them.

The unfortunate reality for African schools is that candidates may have more apprehensions than they would for schools in other parts of the world. You need to start your recruitment well in advance of your desired start dates to give candidates ample time to do their research about the region, the school, and allow them to make an educated and informed decision.

At the end of the day, every teacher is different. Never forget that what is offputting to one teacher might be a welcome challenge to another. So the next time you’ve got to whip up one of those dreaded job posts, keep your dream teacher in mind, think about what should motivate them and describe the adventure that Africa has to offer.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.