Sibusiso Mkwanazi
2 minute read
11 Apr 2014
8:00 am

Charity begins at home

Sibusiso Mkwanazi

I was simply elated to hear that the department of education had finally caught on to just how much of a powerhouse China really is and decided to introduce Mandarin as one of the language choices in schools.

Supplied picture

Firstly, more people will know that “Chinese” is not a language – just as much as “South African” is not a language – but more importantly, we can all add a bit of laughter to our lives.

Do yourself a favour and count how many people go around sporting “Chinese” tattoos on their bodies. Next time you see one, just politely ask them what they were told the tattoo means. Soon our little ones will be able to tell these individuals, especially the big and burly types, that the inscription on their forearm actually says “I love soft rice”, while they were told it means “big and tough”.

We embrace all things Chinese. We find it normal to buy Chinese-American Apple products, fancy Chinese-Italian suits and even authentic South African-Chinese-Ndebele blankets. So I started thinking that if the basic education department can offer Mandarin, why are we not starting right here on our doorstep, in Africa?

Nigeria’s economy has just been reported to be the biggest in Africa. If Blade Nzimande had announced that Igbo was going to be introduced in our primary schools, how many parents would have been impressed by that? Emergency PTA meetings would be organised to discuss why it would be a terrible idea.

There would be plenty of jokes about how our kids would end up crafting fake Queen of England stamps used in those infamous lottery letters drafted in Hillbrow, Sunnyside and even Sandton.

Knowing us South Africans, there would be more concern about pupils being taught how to make an entire film using just one camera, a microphone and a torch than there would be about broadening our horizons.

The University of Cape Town has a Confucius Institute where students are taught Mandarin, but how many of our institutions are planning to build a Wole Soyinka Institute or a Chinua Achebe Academy?

It has been a few weeks since it was announced that Mandarain would be offered – and I have not heard jibes about fake goods.

But on the very same day the news about Nigeria’s economy broke social networks were abuzz with nothing but ridicule.