Learning Chinese is a class act for students in Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA — Ayele Tadesse, a teacher at the Nedjo special boarding school in Oromia regional state of Ethiopia, speaks highly of exposing students to Chinese language studies at an early age. Tadesse, who studied Chinese at Hawassa University in southern Ethiopia, has been teaching the language to some 88 students across three classes at the Nedjo special boarding school for the past eight months.
“Teaching the Chinese language to schoolchildren is really an interesting thing. They are unbelievably fast at learning the language while also very active in the classroom,” Tadesse says.
The school is one of nine special boarding secondary schools in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, where students are given the chance to choose from Chinese, Arabic and French.
Tola Beriso, head of the Oromia Education Bureau, says teaching Chinese to schoolchildren will further improve their future opportunities.
“In addition to other subjects, students are taking Arabic, Chinese and French languages, based on their preferences. We have about 1,522 students, of whom 305 have already selected Chinese,” Beriso says.
Given that Chinese language education has been mostly available for students at the university level in Ethiopia, Tadesse says that it is a rare opportunity to enable students to learn the language at a younger age.
Milky Tolemariam, a Chinese language teacher from the Bishoftu secondary special boarding school, agrees. “It is a very good initiative, because these young children will grow to become the future of this nation,” he says. “Hence, teaching them Chinese at this age will further enable them to become the connecting bridges between our two peoples.”
Tolemariam is undertaking a summer camp of Chinese language training for Ethiopian teachers in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, along with eight other local Chinese language teachers including Tadesse. The summer camp is organized by the Oromia Education Bureau in partnership with the Confucius Institute at Addis Ababa University.
According to Beriso, as language contributes to deepening the relationship between the two countries, teaching the Chinese language would further strengthen the already blossoming people-to-people ties with the Asian nation. “Teaching our children the Chinese language is important. We are also sending students to China for scholarships.”
The Chinese language is provided as a general interest course or an academic major in many public universities across Ethiopia.
The Confucius Institute at the Addis Ababa University, which started operation in Ethiopia in 2012, has so far registered more than 10,000 students, who have passed through various levels of Chinese language studies. Among them, more than 100 were able to get their bachelor’s degrees in the Chinese language, according to the institute.
As a growing number of Ethiopians opt to study the Chinese language, the university has recently announced that it has finalized preparations to launch the first-ever Master of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages program in the East African country. It is a two-year, full-time program, according to the Confucius Institute, in which students study core lessons based at the university in the first year, and qualified students will receive further education in Chinese language teaching at Tianjin University of Technology and Education in China.