by Ronald Ssekandi, Zhang Gaiping
WAKISO, Uganda, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Singing Chinese traditional folk songs, giving Kung Fu performance... Uganda's first crop of Chinese language teachers celebrated here Thursday their graduation.
A total of 33 teachers graduated, 29 of whom passed proficiency level four, meaning that they can easily communicate in Mandarin without the help of an interpreter.
They are going to teach the Chinese language in secondary schools. Their graduation laid a solid foundation for Chinese language teaching in the east African country on a large scale especially in secondary schools.
"We have learnt a lot about Chinese culture through listening, reading, writing and speaking. We have covered all it takes for us to go and teach," Jackeline Akello, one of the graduates, told Xinhua.
Qian Mingmin, one of the Chinese instructors, told Xinhua that the students have acquired all the necessary skills of teaching Chinese in local schools. She said the instructors will do a follow-up on these new teachers after they are assigned to their posts in various schools.
Starting next February, when schools open for a new term, the 33 teachers will teach the Chinese language in their designated schools. This will kick off the teaching of the Chinese as the sixth language in the country's secondary school curricula.
Grace Baguma, Director of National Curriculum Development Center, told Xinhua that another group of 40 language teachers from 40 different schools would soon be trained for nine months.
"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, that is the agreement government reached with China," Baguma said.
She said the Confucius Institute at the country's top university, Makerere University, is supplementing efforts to increase Chinese learning.
She projects that by the end of next four years, more than 60,000 students would have learnt how to speak Mandarin.
Oswald Ndoleriire, Ugandan Director of the Confucius Institute, said starting next year, Makerere University will roll out a bachelor degree program on Chinese and Asian studies, a move aimed at encouraging study on the Chinese and Asian cultures.
He added that a master's degree program in Chinese and Asian studies as well as one in Chinese language teaching would also soon be unveiled.
"We all know the great strides that the Asian continent has made and how much we can learn from them," Ndoleriire said.
Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament in a speech read on her behalf at the graduation, said Uganda needs to strategically place itself as China and Africa deepen their cooperation.
Kadaga said Uganda must prepare its personnel in both government and the private sector to be fluent in the Chinese language.
"This is the only way we can strengthen Uganda-China friendship and ably negotiate for better opportunities, especially in trade and investment, social interactions and mutual cooperation as highlighted during the recently held 2018 Beijing summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)," she said.
Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese ambassador to Uganda, said as Uganda deepens its economic ties with China, there is urgent need to break the language barrier in order to understand each other better.
"While many Chinese in Uganda can speak English, it is difficult to find a Ugandan who can speak Chinese well. In order to narrow this deficit and cater to Ugandans' need to learning Chinese, the Chinese government supports both Chinese sides and their Ugandan partners in making this training program a success," Zheng said.