Faye Nicholls and Erica Dirou describe the challenges and opportunities for teachers with the expanding British Council operation in Egypt
The British Council is recruiting in Egypt, advertising for ‘newly qualified teachers’ (and more experienced teachers too) and will take non-native speakers with C2 CEFR-level English. The vacancies are for the Council’s growing network of teaching centres in Cairo and Alexandria. Most of the vacancies are in Cairo, where there are now four branches across the city, including its newest branch, which opened on 6 September inside a large shopping mall.
The British Council in Egypt is an excellent destination for newly qualified teachers as it offers a one-year Teacher Support Programme (TSP) including training and mentoring. Many teacher support programme graduates go on to do Diploma-level qualifications (50 per cent go on to take the Delta within a couple of years) and rise to roles of responsibility relatively quickly. Several of our recent TSP graduates have gone on to become trainers themselves. Three of our teacher trainers started on the TSP – one is now a Celta trainer and one a Teaching Young Learners Extension Certificate (TYLEC) trainer. Others have gone on to senior management roles elsewhere in the British Council international network, including director of English language services in Qatar and deputy director Bangladesh.
British Council Egypt supports its teachers to do the TYLEC young learner qualification and the Distance Delta, and it is working on offering face-to-face intensive Delta module 2 courses by summer 2017. It also funds short professional and masters courses and offers a management development programme to support experienced teachers who will need to apply for management positions in the near future.
The job package includes relocation and settling-in costs. There is an accommodation allowance and an allowance for Arabic lessons. Part of the salary is paid in Egyptian pounds and part in British pounds sterling.
The cost of living in Egypt is significantly cheaper than in the UK, but is unfortunately rising with steady inflation. Transport and locally produced food are cheap – a falafel sandwich for two Egyptian pounds (less than 20p) at a local vendor – but it is often cheaper to buy clothes and household items back in the UK.
How safe is it in Egypt? The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice warns against all travel to Sinai and against all but essential travel to the Western Desert (towards the Libyan border). The rest of Egypt including Cairo is ‘relatively safe’ but it warns about ‘protests and demonstrations’ and the ‘terrorist threat’, with three flights over Egypt lost since November 2015.
FCO travel advice divides Egypt into green, yellow and red zones. Cairo is in the green zone and we have not seen any major incidents of demonstrations in the last two years. (The green zone, which also covers most of Egypt’s Mediterranean and all of its Red Sea coasts and well over 150 miles inland, is designated as ‘see our advice before travelling’, a much more favourable environment than the ‘advise against travel’ yellow and red zones, which include Sinai and the Western Desert.) However, we always advise all staff to be vigilant, and provide regular updates and guidance on safety. There are still plenty of historical and beach areas to visit for those who want to safely explore outside Cairo.
Sexual harassment, in the form of inappropriate comments from men in the street, is unfortunately still common despite public campaigns and an increased spotlight on this behaviour. Generally this is an annoyance but not threatening.
The security of our teachers is taken very seriously, and there is a well-thought-out evacuation plan in place in the event of war or civil strife. We communicate regularly with the British embassy and have a full-time security manager. However, we don’t foresee any large-scale security incident.
What are some of the good sides to life in Egypt? It’s very bustling – there’s always something to do. There is something for everyone in Cairo. You can choose to spend your time in Western-style shopping malls or at a local souk. There are cinemas showing the latest releases and of course we have the Pyramids and thousands of years of Egyptian history on our doorstep. A lot of our British teachers choose to study Arabic and become involved in Egyptian culture.
There is huge enthusiasm for English language learning across Egypt at all levels. The British Council is likely to continue to recruit English teachers. Training and supporting newly qualified teachers will continue to be part of its recruitment plans. We had our biggest ever intake of newly qualified teachers in September – 43 in total, 35 of them British nationals.
Faye Nicholls is the British Council Egypt’s assistant teaching centre manager and head of adult programmes. Erica Dirou is the British Council Egypt’s assistant teaching centre manager and head of training.
Pic courtesy: British Council