Need to learn Chinese
But unlike Mabisi, who has to pay for his language tuition, Ugandan students in secondary schools are to be taught Chinese free. The Ugandan Government announced last year that Chinese would be included in the foreign languages taught in high schools.
So why is the Chinese language making such inroads in Uganda?
In the recent past, thousands of Chinese businessmen and engineers working for Chinese construction companies came to Uganda and other African countries, where their presence and influence is having an ever-increasing impact on the locals through cuisine, culture and language.
According to Ken Okello from the Ugandan Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, this Chinese influence cannot be underrated. “Many Chinese are opening businesses in Uganda, both in capital Kampala and other cities. They are running shops, supermarkets, factories and transport units. In addition, they are constructing roads,” Okello said.
As some of them do not know English, they prefer employing locals with some Chinese language skills. Also, many Ugandan traders now regularly travel to China to buy items to sell at home. They mostly import textiles, building materials, electronic goods and toys.
“Ugandans who go to trade in China want to learn some basic Chinese to deal with the people from whom they buy,” Okello said.
Simon Mujizi from the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports said another reason for Ugandans learning Chinese is that students who have completed high school are interested in attending universities in China.
“There are some Ugandans currently studying in universities in China. Many others want to join them but in some universities, it is a prerequisite to be fluent in Chinese. That is one of the reasons why many young people are studying Chinese,” Mujizi said.