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Dentistry in Africa

South Africa - World-Class Experts In Dentistry

South Africa's Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park


South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 56 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. South Africa is a multi-ethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world. Two of these languages are of European origin: Afrikaans developed from Dutch and serves as the first language of most white and colored South Africans; English reflects the legacy of British colonialism, and is commonly used in public and commercial life.

South Africa has a generally temperate climate, due in part to being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, by its location in the climatically milder Southern Hemisphere and due to the average elevation rising steadily towards the north (towards the equator) and further inland. Due to this varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety of climatic zones exist. The climatic zones range from the extreme desert of the southern Namib in the farthest northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the Mozambique border and the Indian Ocean. Winters in South Africa occur between June and August.

National Demographic

South Africa is a nation of about 55 million (2016) people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and religions.  South Africa hosts a sizable refugee and asylum seeker population. Groups of refugees and asylum seekers included people from Zimbabwe, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia.

South Africa has eleven official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.  While all the languages are formally equal, some languages are spoken more than others. The three most spoken first languages are Zulu (22.7%), Xhosa (16.0%), and Afrikaans (13.5%). Despite the fact that English is recognized as the language of commerce and science, it ranked fourth, and was listed as the first language of only 9.6% of South Africans but remains the de facto lingua franca of the nation.

The country also recognizes several unofficial languages, including Fanagalo, Khoe, Lobedu, Nama, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, and South African Sign Language. These unofficial languages may be used in certain official uses in limited areas where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent.

Many white South Africans also speak European languages, including Portuguese, German, and Greek, while some Asians in South Africa speak Asian languages, such as Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. French is spoken in South Africa by migrants from Francophone Africa.


It should come as no surprise that the country that invented touchstone dialing offers world-class telecommunications.  Telecommunications is one of the fastest growing sectors of South Africa’s economy, driven by explosive growth in mobile telephony and broadband connectivity. With a network that is 99.9% digital and includes the latest in fixed-line, wireless and satellite communication, the country has the most developed telecoms network in Africa. Mobile phone use in South Africa has increased, today, more South Africans use mobile phones than radio, TV or personal computers even landline phones. With the increase usage, it has also lead to increasing numbers of South Africans using the Internet.

Although expensive compared to more developed nations, broadband is easily obtainable in South Africa. Fixed line options such as ADSL, ISDN, Diginet and Leased Lines are available from the national operator Telkom. Wireless options are available from Sentech, iBurst, Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom and a number of other ISP's. They typically provide speeds of up to 7.6 Mbit/s with HSDPA. HSUPA is also available. MTN South Africa was among the very first mobile networks in the world to offer HSDPA services to its customers. Satellite options are available from both Sentech and Telkom.

English Literacy

English has been both a highly influential language in South Africa, and a language influenced, in turn, by adaptation in the country’s different communities. Around half of the country’s people have a speaking knowledge of English.

English was declared the official language of the Cape Colony (replacing Dutch), and the stated language policy of the government of the time was one of Anglicisation. On the formation of the Union of South Africa, which united the former Boer republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State with the Cape and Natal colonies, English was made the official language together with Dutch, which was replaced by Afrikaans in 1925.

Today, English is South Africa’s lingua franca, and the primary language of government, business, and commerce. The new education curriculum makes two languages compulsory at school, with English the language of learning and teaching at most schools and tertiary educations.

English is spoken as a home language by almost 5- million people (or 8.2% of the population). As a home language, English is most common in Gauteng, where more than a third (32.8%) of all English-speaking South Africans are found, making up 13% of the provincial population. Just less than a third (27.3%) of English speakers live in KwaZulu Natal, where it is the language of 13% of the people in the province, and 23.5% in the Western Cape, where it is spoken by 19.7% of the provincial population.

School System

Education in South Africa is governed by two national departments, namely the Department of Basic Education (DBE), which is responsible for primary and secondary schools, and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which is responsible for tertiary education and vocational training. Prior to 2009, these two departments were represented in a single Department of Education.

The DBE department deals with public schools, private schools (also referred to by the department as independent schools), early childhood development (ECD) centres, and special needs schools. The public schools and private schools are collectively known as ordinary schools, and comprise roughly 97% of schools in South Africa.

The DHET department deals with further education and training (FET) colleges, adult basic education and training (ABET) centres, and higher education (HE) institutions.

South Africa has a 3 tier system of education starting with primary school, followed by high school and tertiary education in the form of (academic) universities and universities of technology. Learners have twelve years of formal schooling, from grade 1 to 12. Grade R is a pre-primary foundation year.  Primary schools span the first seven years of schooling. High School education spans a further five years. The Senior Certificate examination takes place at the end of grade 12 and is necessary for tertiary studies at a South African university.

Public universities in South Africa are divided into three types: traditional universities, which offer theoretically oriented university degrees; universities of technology ("Technikons"), which offer vocational oriented diplomas and degrees; and comprehensive universities, which offer both types of qualification. There are 23 public universities in South Africa: 11 traditional universities, 6 universities of technology and 6 comprehensive universities.

Higher Education

For university entrance, a "Matriculation Endorsement" is required, although some universities do set their own additional academic requirements. South Africa has a vibrant higher sector, with more than a million students enrolled in the country’s universities, colleges and universities of technology. All the universities are autonomous, reporting to their own councils rather than government. The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) system of administering higher education broadly in the country is run by the South African Qualifications Authority.

A Bachelor's degree is a three-year program and the curriculum tends to be a little more structured with less flexibility than at U.S. universities.  Students graduating with high enough scores can apply to stay on for a fourth (honors) year.  During this fourth year, students take honors classes and write a thesis.  This is a transition year into graduate school.  Students graduating with honors from one of the top South African Universities are likely to have done course work on the level of a master's degree in the U.S. and have completed an original thesis that might be slightly more advanced than a typical undergraduate thesis in the U.S.

Medical Education

There are eight medical schools in South Africa, each under the auspices of a public university. As the country is a former British colony, most of the institutions follow the British-based undergraduate method of instruction, admitting students directly from high school into a 6 or occasionally five-year program. Some universities such as the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the University of Cape Town have started offering post-graduate medical degrees that run concurrently with their undergraduate programs. In this instance, a student having completed an appropriate undergraduate degree with basic sciences can enter into a four-year postgraduate program.

South African medical schools award the MBChB degree, except the University of the Witwatersrand, which styles its degree MBBCh. Some universities allow students to earn an intercalated degree, completing a BSc (Medical) with an additional year of study after the second or third year of the MBChB. The University of Cape Town, in particular, has spearheaded a recent effort to increase the level of medical research training and exposure of medical students through an Intercalated Honours Programme, with the option to extend this to a PhD.

Following successful completion of study, all South African medical graduates must complete a two-year internship as well as a further year of community service in order to register with the Health Professions Council and practice as a doctor in the country.

Specialization is usually a five- to seven-year training process (depending on the specialty) requiring registering as a medical registrar attached to an academic clinical department in a large teaching hospital with appropriate examinations. The specialist qualification may be conferred as a Fellowship by the independent Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA), following British tradition, or as a Magisterial degree by the university (usually the M Med, Master of Medicine, degree). The Medical schools and the CMSA also offer Higher Diplomas in many fields. Research degrees are the M.Med and Ph.D. or M.D., depending on university.

Medical students from all over the world come to South Africa to gain practical experience in the country's many teaching hospitals and rural clinics. The language of instruction is English but a few indigenous languages are studied briefly. The University of the Free State has a parallel medium policy, meaning all English classes are also presented in Afrikaans, therefore students who choose to study in Afrikaans, do so separately from the English class.

The Dentistry Profession

South Africa is a little different in that there is a distinct lack of dentists currently practicing, especially given the size of the population in this country. South Africa is desperate for good dentists to add to the ones they already have. South Africa employs relatively few of its doctors and dentists in the public sector, and loses many to emigration. Despite major skills shortages in the medical sector, many are unable to practice here. But it is true that South African doctors and dentists are well trained.

The degree course lasts for a full five years, during which time you will learn everything a dentist has to know in order to practice. It is wise to remember the course is split into different elements. There will be a lot of classroom theory learning, but there is also a significant element of practical teaching that takes place in your chosen dental school. The five year course will include a year spent in medical service, which is compulsory. The dental schools have a dental hospital associated with them where much of the practical experience is gained. There are a number of schools in South Africa that focus on providing dental degree opportunities and there are different degree options available in each place.

Once they have passed their training they will need to register as a dentist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. They can then consider taking further training if they wish to specialize in one particular area of dentistry. Moreover, if they are successful and pass their dental training, they can look forward to a rewarding career as a dentist. 

Getting There for Dental Care

O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg is the air transport hub of Southern Africa and is linked to the rest of the world by many major airlines. This competition makes flights to South Africa relatively cheap and it is always worth looking for specials. Onward travel is mostly by car. Because of excellent roads and facilities in South Africa, some people choose the self-drive option. In most other cases your local tour operator will arrange pick-up from the airport and further transportation as part of your tour package.

Other international airports are located in Cape Town - Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and Durban - King Shaka International Airport (DUR), but these are less relevant for further travel to your safari destination. In any case, few flights from Europe or America fly directly to either destination.

Airfares depend on the season, with the highest prices and greatest demand in June, July, August, December and the first week of January. You get the best prices during the low season in October and November and from the last three weeks of January until March.

Visitor Highlights

South Africa is a unique place; a land of oceans, jungles and plains. Most of us think of safaris when we think of Africa, but South Africa has so much more to offer world travelers that her beautiful wildlife. South Africa also offers high-tech and modern cities, culture, arts, fine dining and the best in world-class hotel accommodations. South Africa offers experiences and sights that can be found nowhere else on the planet.

South Africa, officially known as the Republic of South Africa, offers a great introduction to the many jewels of the Dark Continent. Tourists here will find classic African scenery: golden savannah, great gaping gorges, and hauntingly beautiful deserts, as well as their favorite African creatures - and, as a bonus- the creature comforts. Apart from the big-name game parks of Kruger and the Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, South Africa is home to some of the world's most luxurious private game reserves and lodges. Wildlife lovers come here from all corners of the globe in search of the "Big Five": lion, buffalo, leopard, rhino, and elephant, and often they find it, and so much more.

Coral reefs, shark dives, dragon-backed mountain ranges, white-water rafting, and golden beaches lapped by legendary surf breaks are some of South Africa's many other attractions. Traveling around this vast land and touring the vibrant cities, visitors can learn about the nation's turbulent history: in Cape Town, one of the world's most beautiful cities; in Durban, a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, at the poignant museums and galleries in Johannesburg, and in Soweto, birthplace of Nelson Mandela, who helped birth democracy in this astoundingly diverse nation.


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