Kenya’s education plan in 2020 is to introduce Mandarin to its primary school pupils. Kenya has followed the path of South Africa and Uganda which also introduced Mandarin as a second language to its schools in January 2016 and December 2018 respectively.
Julius Jwan, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) said, “Beginning 2020, we will commence teaching Mandarin as a foreign language from grade four for pupils who wish to learn the Asian language.”
Jwan said, “The place of China in the world economy has also grown to be so strong that Kenya stands to benefit if its citizens can understand Mandarin.” Kenya is in the process of revising its education curriculum to be more skill and competent focused.
In November 2016, China’s ambassador to Kenya Liu Xianfa said, “The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development is promoting introduction of Chinese as a subject in Kenyan primary and secondary schools. A 15-man delegation of accomplished Chinese scholars also visited Kenya to boost face-to-face talks.”
Furthermore, the Chinese had disbursed $12 million (ksh 1.2billion) for the construction of Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi. The Confucius Institute serves a similar purpose as the French cultural and language centre Alliance Française, Germany’s Goethe Institut and UK’s British Council.
While Kiswahili is taught in Kenyan schools, no indigenous language is getting as much attention. There have been calls to increase the use of indigenous languages in the classroom. The wide presence of the Chinese on the continent has been compared by many to a new form of imperialism, only this time, the Chinese are using trade. The acceptability of foreign languages on the continent has a long term effect on the languages spoken on the continent which may die due to lack of use. English, French and Mandarin will become major languages on the continent at the expense of many indigenous languages.
.While China has many trade partnerships with many African countries, the onus of learning a new language, Mandarin, has been on the Africans. Hopefully, this won’t erode the few remaining indigenous languages African countries have.