TEFL/TESOL in Haiti
Haiti is mostly known for a history of political instability and more recently the 2010 earthquake, but there is still a thriving industry of English teaching and there are certainly jobs to be found there for the right kind of TEFL teacher.
The country itself is something of a peculiarity in the American continent as it is one of only two countries where French is spoken as an official language, the other being Canada. This reflects its history as a French possession up until it won its independence in 1804, making it the first colony in the Caribbean or Latin America to free itself from European rule. Since then, the country has gone through revolutions and crises, dictatorships and foreign occupations, the latest of these disasters coming with the 2010 earthquake which left hundreds of thousands dead in its wake, along with as many if not more people homeless.
Geographically, Haiti is the western and smaller part of the island of Hispaniola which it shares with the Dominican Republic.
Current Conditions for TEFL Teachers
Today, Haitians are still trying to recover from the 2010 disaster. A huge amount of foreign aid was sent to the country in the months following, and thousands of volunteers and NGOs committed themselves to the relief and rebuilding efforts; however, an inept government response and infrastructural weakness meant that these efforts lost much of their potential impact.
For those looking to teach English in Haiti, there are many opportunities and schools available, but it is best to try and arrange something prior to arrival. Qualifications required can range from a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate and perhaps some experience, to higher qualifications, depending on the school or language center in question. The top international schools will require a teaching qualification and experience.
One of the better routes to finding something permanent is to volunteer or intern with one of the numerous charities and NGOs that operate in the country. The Haitian-American Institute is a good source of information for openings and opportunities. By organising to volunteer with an organization initially, you can familiarize yourself with the country, its people, and the various paid employment options available in schools etc.
The most obvious place to start is the capital, Port Au Prince, while other large cities, Carrefour, Delmas, and Petionville, though operating a much smaller scale than Port Au Prince, are also worth a look.
It is possible to travel to Haiti without organizing a visa in advance for citizens of most countries. Most schools and colleges will be able organize work permits for employees, or at the very least provide advice on how to obtain them.
Conditions & Pay
The cost of living compared to most Western countries is very low. A normal one course meal at a restaurant varies between $3 USD (€2, £2) and $5 USD (€4, £3), while rent on a one bedroom apartment ranges from $400 USD (€317, £255) to $500 USD (€396, £318) a month.
For those looking to volunteer at first, some savings or other outside funding will be necessary though those with paid work will usually find that their salary meets their needs. As is the case with teaching English in most poorer countries, it may be possible to make some savings while there if sufficient remuneration or teaching hours are made available, but prospective teachers shouldn’t expect to bank much while working in Haiti.
Crime rates in Haiti are actually not much higher than those of the USA, but, nevertheless, travelers are advised to take normal safety precautions with as they would with any country. For some Europeans, the country’s climate and propensity for tropical storms and heavy earthquakes, as well as the general poverty, might prove a shock.Image © United Nations Development Programme