2019/10/08

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Is Mandarin Chinese the language of East Africa's future?

  



The introduction of the Mandarin Chinese language to East African school curricula signals Chinas growing influence in Africa as a global superpower.


In January, Kenyas Curriculum Development Institute announced that in 2020, Mandarin will become part of Kenyas school curriculum as an optional subject in elementary schools. Kenya is the latest East African nation to follow the Chinese-language trend in schools after Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa, among others.


As China strengthens its already robust trade and infrastructural ties with Africa, Chinese-government funded Confucius Institutes (CIs) and Confucius Classrooms (CCs) are on the rise in East Africa. As of 2018, China has established 27 CCs and at least 51 CIs all over Africa.


China has sponsored CIs since 2004 and hundreds have also been established in the United States, Australia, and Canada.


East African leaders have generally supported the idea that becoming familiar with Chinese languages and culture improves job competitiveness and facilitates better business relations with China.


Uganda, however, is the only East African country that has added Mandarin as a compulsory subject. Instead of contracting out Chinese teachers, Ugandas Ministry of Education Uganda will offer a 9-month program to train 100 local secondary teachers how to read, speak and write Mandarin at Luyanzi College, who can then teach the language in other secondary school classrooms.


In 2016, Luyanzi became the first secondary school in Uganda to teach Mandarin. Ugandan Ayub Sooma and his Chinese wife of 20 years, Wang Li Hong Sooma, co-own and manage Luyanzi College, a private school. Sooma, who has also served as chairperson of the Uganda-China Friendship Association, believes it is necessary to learn Mandarin in order to enjoy the benefits China has to offer.


Yet, Ugandan-Chinese relations have also been strained due to complaints of ongoing, unfair trade and labor practices.


Tanzanian President John Magufuli announced in May 2019 that Mandarin has been added to the national Certificate of Secondary Education Exams (CSEE) and students will be able to sit a Mandarin language exam. Just like Uganda, local teachers are receiving training to become adept at Mandarin and teach it in secondary schools.



In early July 2019, the Muslim University of Morogoro, in eastern Tanzania, launched a CI Chinese language center. At the inauguration, Ave Maria Semakafu, deputy permanent secretary of the countrys Education Ministry, informed the audience that Marangu Teachers College in Kilimanjaro, northern Tanzania, may also offer Mandarin as a major course. Ongoing negotiations between Tanzania and China could lead to a Mandarin program at Marangu Teachers College that will enable teachers to learn Mandarin similar to Swahili and English degree programs, like those offered at the University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Dodoma, who currently offer a Mandarin degree.


Rwanda also recognizes the importance of CIs and CCs in their bilateral relationship with China. Last month, Rwanda hosted the 12th round of Chinese Bridge, a Chinese language proficiency competition organized for secondary students. Students from secondary schools throughout Rwanda participated.


Chinas relationship with East Africa goes back thousands of years and at times, China has also recognized the importance of learning Swahili as part of its ongoing trade and business relationship. In East Africa, 144 million speak Swahili, a Bantu language that originated along the Swahili Coast as a trade language between Arabs and East Africans. The African Union recognizes Swahili as one of several official languages and theres been some discussion about making Swahili the lingua franca adopted by other African nations.


During the early 60s, the Communication University of China offered Swahili language classes in solidarity with the socialist vision of Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, but that ended in 1966. The Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) in eastern China recently introduced a BA degree program in Swahili language studies.


Source: https://goodmenproject.com


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