Over the past decade or so, the number of South Africans heading to the likes of South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and China to teach English has risen substantially.
That’s probably because so many people have a blast doing it, and it’s possible to save some decent money whilst exploring a far off corner of the world.
Not everyone comes out smiling, though, and in the case of Capetonian Rasheeda Norris [below] it quickly became a nightmare.
She shared her story with W24 in the hopes of preventing another would-be teacher from falling for the scam, so let’s jump right in:
On the 16 April I packed two suitcases and got on a plane to Beijing, China. This was after being in contact with a company over there that would be providing me with training and a job teaching English as second or foreign language (TEFL).
After what felt like an eternal flight, plus check-ins and searches, I finally came through the terminal at Beijing airport. I was met by a Chinese lady who worked for this company and who’d be assisting me to get to my apartment. The drive was long due to peak-hour traffic, the driver of the taxi dropped us off on the main road and we walked for about 10 mins to the apartment – I had no clue where I was.
We then walked down this long gangetjie (alleyway) and right around the corner was where I’d be staying in the SLUMS of Beijing…There was also an eastern toilet (a toilet used by squatting rather than sitting) and the whole bathroom was just disgusting (but I won’t get into that).
It’s all beginning to unravel, and further alarm bells weren’t far behind:
While walking one day [her South African friend Pete] received a message from the agency saying, ‘If the school asks, here’s your degree,’ and Pete was sent a nicely forged Unisa degree for a BA in education.
And then the nail in the coffin:
…at the school I was working in they kept saying there were other South Africans but I never saw them. They were always ‘on vacation’ or ‘gone to sort out their visas’.
The teachers at the school would never allow me to teach properly. If I’d say something to the class, for example ‘rice’, they’d tell me ‘No, they can’t say “R” so you have to say “wice”.’ Being the person that I am, I questioned this. I asked why they’d asked me to come and teach if they weren’t going to allow me to teach properly anyway.
The next day the teachers started questioning my visa and when I returned home that evening I got a message saying, ‘You have to come back to Beijing, please pack your bags.’
After some digging around on Google, Morris found that the woman with whom she had been in contact had 13 other companies offering similar services listed in her name, and was running a scam that had stolen 70% of other foreigners’ earnings.
The agency did try and set her up with one final job in the Himalayas, but Morris booked the earliest flight back to SA and made for home:
I didn’t decide to write this because I want sympathy from anyone, I wrote it because there are so many people who take these opportunities, so many people that see this as a way out of their current situation, that see an ad that says ‘no qualification and experience needed’ and go for it.
My advice to anyone considering such an opportunity is to be careful out there. There are sick people in the world. I can finally say that I’m now able to sleep at night, and yes, there are still moments where I think about what could’ve happened. But I’m safe and alive and well.”
Like most things in life, there’s always someone with ill intentions trying to ruin the fun.
Just be sure you’re working with a reputable company, and if they tell you to pronounce “rice” as “wice” then get out of there as soon as you can.
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