Africans are for sale again, as Mandarin takes over

The roots of colonialisation are so deep that it could take even 2 000 years to decolonise if we are not careful. We must always know that unlike an apple that fell from the tree decolonisation will not be for free. We must be engaged in the work of the mind to achieve it.

Finally, the Chinese are here. Africans always complain that their languages can’t be the languages of teaching and learning instead of fighting for the indigenous languages to be turned into languages of teaching and learning.

The Chinese have seen an opportunity in our weakness of hating our indigenous languages. History has taught us that every coloniser used language to launch their take over project. South Africa has joined other African countries in introducing Mandarin as a language in schools.

Already 44 schools have introduced Mandarin, with the prospect of more to follow. The Global Institute of Chinese Language will train teachers to face the challenge of teaching this language in our schools.

Every education system has an element of culture and language embedded in it. So has Chinese. This is a serious invasion. English and Afrikaans languages must call it a day as there is another imperialist coming to remove them from their long celebrated position.

The Chinese are not here to play; they are pursuing a well-calculated mission of taking over Africa. Within a decade or so Mandarin will spread throughout all schools in Africa. The Chinese will invest a huge sum of money to make sure their project becomes a success. To get a job in Chinese businesses you will have to have Mandarin as a criterion in a distant future.

The issue of the indigenous languages is becoming so difficult to achieve; it’s more like the expropriation of the land without compensation.

The problems which make us fail to position indigenous languages properly is the attitude of the role players in policy creation and implementation, especially parents in schools. Most parents still think English is everything attached to the success of their children. Education is no longer regarded as the content and skills obtained by the pupils but the fluency in the English language.

A ministerial task team established by the department of basic education has already recommended that history be made a compulsory subject from 2023 in schools from grades 10 to 12. Our government is coming with a very clear position on the issue of introducing history as one of the compulsory subjects in our schools’ curriculums. The aim of the government, I hope, is to make sure that all pupils become conscious about their past to understand why they are where they are today and assist them have an outlook of the future they want. It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

The question that quickly pops up is: What is the government doing in preparation for the roll-out of this project? Is the government going to offer history in English or indigenous languages to African kids? To decolonise the curriculums the government must start by decolonising the language of teaching and learning. The introduction of a decolonised curriculums of history is an opportunity to test the political will of our
government.

Irrespective of the research findings that kids benefit more when they learn in their home language, most of the developing countries, including South Africa, prefer European languages when offering education to their children.

Our children need a sense of identity and belonging. We must allow our children to learn in their own languages in the early years. Let’s discard the wrong attitude towards our languages to save them from being endangered.

Let us be proud of our heritage. Let’s get attached to our roots. If we do all these we begin to decolonise.

Shishenge is a language activist at Wena Research Institute

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