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Thursday, 11 April 2019

 Inside a brightly-lit classroom, around 20 schoolchildren are enthusiastically singing the Chinese national anthem.

That song is followed by another tune in Chinese -- one typically sung during the Lunar New Year.

But this scene is not taking place in a Chinese school but at Lakewood Premier school, thousands of kilometers away in Nairobi. Here, schoolchildren are learning Mandarin, a language spoken by nearly 1 billion people almost 8,000 kilometers away from their home.

Sandra Wanjiru, 13, is one of hundreds of African schoolchildren who are increasingly proficient in the Chinese language. More will join their ranks in 2020 when Mandarin will be officially taught in all Kenyan schools alongside French, Arabic and German, which are already on the curriculum.

Lakewood Premier School, where Wanjiru studies, has begun the program a year early to give its pupils a head start.

"I chose to learn Chinese first because it's interesting to learn a foreign language but also because I would want to travel and do business in China," said Wanjiru.

Julius Jwan, CEO of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), told Chinese state-owned Chinese news agency Xinhua: "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."


China's growing influence in Africa


China has become increasingly powerful and prominent across Africa over the past two decades.

Through President Xi Jinping's flagship Belt and Road Initiative, China has loaned money to African countries to build highways, dams, stadiums, airports and skyscrapers. The Asian powerhouse has given out more than $143 billion in loans to African countries since 2000, according to the Johns Hopkins SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative.

Kenya is not the only country teaching its youngsters Chinese; in South Africa, Mandarin has been an optional language course for students since 2014, and in December 2018, Uganda introduced Mandarin to secondary students in selected schools.

Henry Adramunguni, a curriculum specialist at Uganda's National Curriculum Development Centre, said Mandarin was included in the curriculum because it is one of the United Nations' languages of work. Ugandan students also have the choice of learning French, Arabic and Latin or German in school.

"We want to give the opportunity for our young Ugandans to have access to jobs, education, and business beyond our borders. That's why we've given them this opportunity to learn Chinese," he said.

CNN Illustration/Getty Images
Teachers in the program were trained by tutors at the Confucius Institute, a non-profit organization, working to promote Chinese language and culture around the world.
Confucius launched its first outpost in Africa at the University of Nairobi in 2005 and has since expanded to 48 centers across the continent. They are run by Hanban (the Office of Chinese Language Council International) and are part-funded by the Chinese government and the universities that host them.
China ranks second only to France as the country with the most number of cultural institutions in Africa; a remarkable rise given China has no colonial ties with any country on the continent unlike France and the UK, which have traditionally used cultural institutes such as Institut Français or the British Council to wield influence abroad.
The continued expansion of Chinese cultural institutes on the continent is part of the country's strategy to increase its influence in Africa through 'soft power,' says Ilaria Carrozza, a researcher on China-Africa relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
China hopes that by encouraging the study of its language, it can boost its soft power and appeal abroad, says Carrozza.
"Soft power, if successful, may lead to more influence -- as a matter of fact, it is more than just influence and rather works through persuasion and attraction," Carrozza said.
She added that African governments see the introduction of Mandarin and Chinese institutes as an investment in the future of young Africans.
"African governments hope that introducing Mandarin in school curricula will lead to a future workforce that gets better jobs either in China or with Chinese companies operating in the continent," she said.

Confucius concerns

Despite the apparent advantages, Carrozza warned that African governments should keep a close eye on these institutes especially in the wake of closures in the US of such centers amid fears of interference from the Chinese Communist Party.
The University of North Florida joined a growing list of American schools to end its partnership with the Confucius Institute, saying the center's activities did not align with the school's goals. The decision was welcomed by US Senator Marco Rubio who has been an outspoken opponent of the institutes.
"Without degenerating into a witch-hunt, this is something African governments and institutions need to carefully consider in each individual case," Carrozza said.
China's Foreign Ministry denies accusations the government interferes in running the institutes.
Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a February media briefing in Beijing: "All the Confucius Institutes in the US are jointly established in American universities in accordance with their voluntary application and in line with the principle of mutual respect, friendly consultation, equality and mutual benefit by the Chinese and American universities.
In Kenya, the introduction of Mandarin hasn't been welcomed by all. Wycliffe Omucheyi, chair of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), said he believes the government is rushing into the program. Rather than Mandarin, students should be taught indigenous African languages, he said.
"The government needs to develop the vernacular languages classes first before embarking on something foreign," said Omucheyi.
Despite these concerns, Russell Kaschula, a professor of African Language Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, said it would be naive for Africans not to learn Mandarin as China is a major trading partner to many countries on the continent.
"It is as important as the learning of English, French and Portuguese were back in the 19th century in Africa," he added, referring to a time when former colonial powers imposed their languages.
Africans often have to learn new languages as a matter of necessity and as long as foreign languages are optional, Kaschula said having them in a school's curriculum was not a problem.
"Nelson Mandela once learned Afrikaans so that he could understand the Afrikaner oppressors better," he said.
"In the same way, I think the learning of Mandarin makes sense to Africans."
Source: CNN
Published in World

The internet-bank Foreign Exchange was on Tuesday boosted by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, with the injection of another $210 million.

This was disclosed by the Director, Corporate Communications at the CBN, Isaac Okoroafor in a statement in Abuja.

According to Okoroafor, this was in continuation of the CBN’s sustenance of liquidity in that segment of the market, adding that the distribution of the fund showed that authorised dealers in the wholesale segment of the market were offered 100 million dollars, while the Small and Medium Enterprises segment received $55m.

The invincible segment, comprising of customers who need foreign exchange for tuition fees, medical payments and Basic Travel Allowance among others, were allocated $55m.

The statement also reaffirmed the apex bank’ commitment to continually boost the inter-bank foreign exchange market to ensuring liquidity and stability.

Published in Bank & Finance

WhatsApp has added a new update to the beta version of its app which shows that it is working on a new feature concerning archived chats, WABetaInfo reports.

Currently, chats which have been archived are hidden in the application until a new message arrives from that chat – at which point it is automatically unarchived by WhatsApp.

The beta version of the app includes a new option called “Ignore archived chats”, which can be toggled on or off from WhatsApp’s notification settings. When enabled, archived chats won’t be unhidden when new messages arrive and will need to be manually restored by the user themselves.

WhatsApp will also add a new “Archived” section to the main chat screen which allows you to change this option.

This feature is not currently available, but it is expected to launch soon for the beta version of the application.


Credit: MyBroadband

Published in Telecoms

Sudanese academics are taking a leading role in protests against President Omar al-Bashir. Moina Spooner from The Conversation Africa spoke to Willow Berridge about their role in the country’s previous uprisings.

What major uprisings in Sudan involved Sudanese academics?

Sudanese academics at the University of Khartoum were prominently involved in Sudan’s two most famous uprisings. These were the October Revolution of 1964, which ushered out Sudan’s first military regime, and the April Intifada of 1985, which ousted the second.

Although students at the capital’s other universities – notably Omdurman Islamic University in 1985 – played a leading role in mobilising resistance, Khartoum University was always the most significant hub of intellectual opposition.

Both the 1964 and 1985 uprisings are regarded with a great deal of pride in Sudan. They were largely civil in character and, after brief interim periods, brought about a peaceful transition to parliamentary democracy.

Yet, at the same time, the leaders of the uprisings were unable to bring an end to conflict in the now seceded southern region of the country – South Sudan. They also couldn’t prevent the parliamentary democracies they established being overthrown by military coups in 1969 and 1989.

How and why did they get involved?

The University of Khartoum – which emerged out of the old colonial school Gordon Memorial College, established in 1902 – first became involved in the politics of regime change in 1964. This was after the government sanctioned political and academic debate on the ongoing conflict in the south.

University lecturers soon took the opportunity to begin pressuring for political change in Khartoum itself. This led to the government shutting down the same seminars it had initially sanctioned.

On 21 October 1964, police raided a seminar convened by Khartoum University’s student’s union. This led to skirmishes with undergraduates. One of them, Ahmad al-Qurayshi, was shot dead. The next day four members of the teaching staff bore al-Qurayshi’s bier in a funeral procession which transformed itself into the first mass anti-regime rally of the October Revolution.

Soon afterwards, university lecturers helped form the Professional Front, the forerunner of today’s Sudan Professional Association.

The Professional Front had its headquarters at the University of Khartoum. From there it mobilised the general strike that toppled the regime.

By 1985, the precedent had already been set. University lecturers played an active part in the Union Alliance that mobilised the population against the regime of Jafa’ar Nimeiri.

It was meetings held within the University of Khartoum that, once again, enabled professional unions to form a coherent front against the authoritarian government.

What impact did they have?

As members of the Professional Front and Union Alliance, the lecturers were instrumental in effecting the general strikes that toppled regimes in 1964 and 1985.

Lecturers were also members of professional-political party coalitions. The United National Front in 1964 and the National Alliance in 1985. Here, they were instrumental in negotiating arrangements for transitional regimes with the military. In 1964 one of the Professional Front’s most active lecturers, Muhammad Salih Umar, went on to be a minister in the transitional government.

There are a couple of reasons why academic activism was so effective.

First, they were part of a small and closely networked elite which bound them to other professional groups. This included the upper echelons of the army. Many also came from similar backgrounds in central, riverain Sudan. This enabled them to overcome their own internal ideological divisions and minimise the risk of being manipulated by the regime.

But the narrow social base of the professional class was also one reason why the uprising failed. Principally, it didn’t overcome the country’s broader regional divides. Particularly the divide between the riverain centre, the West and the South.

In addition, not all remained committed to the principle of multiparty democracy after their participation in the Intifadas or uprisings. Notably, Hasan al-Turabi, a law lecturer and covert member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was instrumental in galvanising academics and students against the first military regime in 1964. But he was also the ideological and political architect of the current authoritarian Islamist regime. Therefore he effectively brought the current President, Omar al-Bashir, into power.

What is their role this time round?

University lecturers have once again begun to mobilise alongside their fellow professionals against al-Bashir’s regime. A number have been arrested.

Because the current Intifada has been more spontaneous and decentralised than in 1964 and 1985, academics have not played as prominent a role. But the University of Khartoum has certainly been at the centre of important debates about Sudan’s immediate political future.

Two distinct initiatives have emerged from within the university: The University of Khartoum Lecturers’ Initiative, and the University of Khartoum Initiative.

The lecturers’ initiative demands an immediate political transition. It was signed by hundreds of academic staff, many of whom also staged a sit in on the campus.

The University of Khartoum Initiative is the brainchild of the executive cadres of the university administration appointed by the regime since 1992. They have proposed a “platform for dialogue”. This was unsurprisingly welcomed by President al-Bashir. He has frequently called for dialogue as a diversionary tactic.The Conversation

Willow Berridge, Lecturer in History, Newcastle University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis

All but one member of New Zealand’s Parliament voted on Wednesday to change gun laws, less than a month after deadly shooting attacks on two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people.

The gun reform bill, which passed 119 to one after its final reading in parliament, must now receive royal assent from the governor general before it becomes law.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with 50 murder charges after the attack on two mosques on March 15.

Published in World
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