What do some figures think of the decision to start teaching Mandarin in South African schools?
South African state schools will introduce Mandarin lessons starting 2016, said a government official. This is in a bid to strengthen cultural relations with China, who had become their largest trading partner since 2009.
According to Yahoo! News, basic education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga told AFP that South Africa hopes to teach Mandarin to “as many people as far as practically possible”. The programme is part of a 10-year plan signed by South African President Jacob Zuma in December last year.
Mhlanga also shared teachers have been going to China for training and China has also been bringing in trainers into South Africa to support them, and that China is footing the bill for the training.
Along with all the training, three Confucius Institutes and research centres similar to Germany’s Goethe-Institut will be built to promote Chinese culture.
This issue is met with divided points of view.
Dr Paul Tembe, a research fellow at the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University, feels that the decision has been long overdue.
Dr Tembe said that “it would be absurd if our government didn’t arm our people with Mandarin”, seeing how influences of China is present in all aspects of the African society. In fact, on a trip to China in 2004, he found that Chinese schools were already teaching Swahili and Zulu.
On the other hand, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) is strongly against the decision. They described the move as “tantamount to a new form of colonisation”.
“We will prioritise African languages in order to build social cohesion,” said Mugwena Maluleke, the union’s general secretary.
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