KAMPALA – As Uganda’s population increases, many young people are having trouble finding jobs that pay well. A government directive to introduce the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in schools may lead to better employment opportunities.
China is a major trade partner and investor in Africa, and many countries are encouraging their citizens to learn what is considered by many to be the language of the future.
Last year, Uganda’s Ministry of Education named 35 schools countrywide where the Chinese language would be taught.
Now, every Sunday evening, Ronald Sebutiko is glued to his television set for the learning the Chinese language.
Sebutiko is among thousands of Ugandan youths who are taking up Chinese lessons either through formal class or television, as the ties between Uganda and China deepen.
Urban Television, a semi-autonomous state-owned television station this week started airing Chinese language lessons with support from the Confucius Institute at Makerere University, the country’s top University.
The 30-minute program dubbed “Let’s talk Chinese” airs every Sunday.
The teachers, one Chinese and another Ugandan, take viewers through the basics of Chinese language learning.
Viewers like Sebutiko will win a trip to China once they are chosen as the best students.
Using television is another mechanism of reaching a wider audience apart from going to learning centers in some parts of the east African country.
Late last year a total of 33 language teachers graduated in teaching Chinese language after a nine-month intensive course. They were the first batch of teachers who were sent to designated schools across the country to teach the language.
Grace Baguma, director National Curriculum Development Center, told PML Daily in a recent interview that Chinese language is the sixth language in the country’s secondary school curricula.
“We have the syllabus ready, instruction materials are ready and now the teachers have been trained. So they will go and start teaching in those schools. Overall, 100 teachers will be trained,” Baguma said.
Baguma projected that in the next four years, about 60,000 students would have learnt how to speak Chinese language.
The Confucius Institute at Makerere University is supplementing efforts to increase Chinese language learning. In addition to offering short courses, the Institute also teaches students who take Chinese as one of their majors.
In a bid to expand its programs across the country, the Confucius Institute early this month signed a memorandum of understanding with Ntare School in the western part of the country to become a learning center.
Two teachers from the secondary school were taken to China for training. The institute also send two Chinese language teachers to the school.
Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament early last month said learning the Chinese language would open up opportunities for locals to work in Chinese companies and also do business in China.
“I am encouraging Ugandans to learn more languages, specifically the Chinese, because we have many Chinese investors in the country who will need translators as they carry on their businesses in the country,” Kadaga said.
“I am focusing on Chinese language because I know Chinese are here to offer our people jobs and people who know their language will be the first people to have those jobs,” she added.