According to the South African minister of education, Mandarin, the most widely spoken Chinese dialect will be taught as an optional subject in public schools in South Africa. Students taking the course will also be required to sit for an exam. The language will be introduced into the South African public school system beginning January 2016.
The move has been praised by some South African government officials saying it is a step in the right direction towards bringing the two countries closer. China has become one of South Africa’s biggest trading partner, but the details as to just how much the two countries trade has been scanty.
The public in South Africa has received the news in anything but kind moods, almost viscerally. Questions such as: “Why is our government bending over backwards for China? Do we have any say in it or is it just being rammed down our throats? Are we just aiding the new colonialists? Who is really benefiting? Do the Chinese even learn African language? Will we have to learn another language when China is no longer our major trading partner? Talk to a man in his language.”
The teacher’s union in South Africa were particularly cynical about the prospects of teaching and examining Mandarin in their schools. Phrases such as “over our dead body” were heard being said by the teachers.
Many people are of the view that this move backfire and rightfully so. Unless the government reevaluates its approach on the matter and fashion it in a way that better resonates with the South African public. Political analysts say the government needs to take a different approach on the issue fast before the opposition delves into the matter.
There are those who are of the view that teaching Mandarin in South African schools might be a good move even albeit their reasons for supporting it is entirely different. Those unopposed to the idea argue that learning a new language will open new opportunities and parents who allow their kids to learn Mandarin could putting them at more advantage. Those unopposed to the idea say if the South African government wants to sell the idea to the people, they should approach it from that angle.
It might be important to point out that South Africa’s economy is currently sluggish, and it could use all the money China can give. The question that now emerges is at what cost will China help South Africa give its economy a rejuvenation.
There is no denying that China within the last decade or so, has been aggressively creating inroads throughout the continent of Africa. Additionally, China has never been shy about making it clearr that its economcy’s best interest is always high in priority.
On the other hand, Chinese too have been trying to learn some African languages like Lingala, Kiswahili, and Sesotho. The Chinese understand that to communicate with their African counterparts they must learn their tongue.
Maybe it is time blacks encourage other races to learn their native languages, unlike the norm where you find many Africans being quite eloquent and proficient in other People’s languages.