Kenyan Elementary Schools To Teach Students Mandarin

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Kenyan elementary schools will begin teaching Mandarin to students, allowing them to learn the Chinese language at a young age.

Mandarin lessons are set to start in 2020 in an effort to improve job competitiveness and facilitate better trade and relations with China, according to Quartz.

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The Kenyan Institute of Curriculum Development will allow students age 10 and older to learn the language at elementary school level. The course design and scope is set.

China encouraged Kenya’s decision to begin teaching Mandarin to children at a young age and sent a delegation of Chinese scholars to assist with the development of the course, according to TheNation.

Kenyan elementary schools
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for photographers. Image – AP – Etienne Oliveau

China provided further incentives for the planned introduction of the course by giving Kenyan graduate students scholarships to help them study at Chinese colleges.

Kenyan elementary schools not the first to embrace Mandarin

South Africa is the first African country to begin teaching the Chinese language in elementary schools, adding it in 2016 as an optional language in public schools, according to M&G.

There are also plans underway in Uganda for Mandarin to be introduced at highschool level as a compulsory subject, Quartz reports.

The subject will be trialled at 35 schools, with students forced to study the language for two years, with the subject becoming optional thereafter.

China and Kenya relations

Kenya’s political and economic ties to China have grown over the years.

The Chinese have become Kenya’s largest lender, accounting for 72 percent of bilateral debt (Kenya owes China $5.25 billion dollars) by the end of March 2018, according to BusinessDaily.

China has also been important in terms of Kenya’s infrastructure and construction industry, building numerous projects within the East African state including a $3.2 billion rail line between the country’s biggest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa, according to CNN.

The Chinese played a crucial part in the funding and construction of the Madraka Express within two and a half years, and it was officially launched in 2017.

In 2013 the two nations celebrated 50 years of political and business cooperation, recommitting to implementing deals that are long-lasting and larger in scale for the benefit of both countries, NTV Kenya reported.

The China-Kenya relationship can be traced back to the 15th century when Chinese navigator Zheng He traveled to East Africa, AllAfrica reports.

Cultural exchange is also strong between the two countries. The Confucius Institutes in University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University and Egerton University attract thousands of Kenyan students.