The Department of Education introduces mandarin as an additional language in South African public schools. Student teachers are worried their roles in the country could be replaced.

South African student teachers at Wits say they have not been told about the introduction of Mandarin in public schools and some have expressed doubts about the effect of its implementation.

Mandarin policy introduced
In 2015 the Department of Basic Education (DBE) confirmed that Mandarin would be introduced as a subject in public schools this year. While the policy has only been rolled out in a few schools at the start of 2016, teachers are concerned that their roles in the country could be replaced by Mandarin-speaking teachers. According to the document “Bilateral Cooperation between South Africa and China in basic education”, provided by DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, the department is in the process of introducing Mandarin as an elective foreign language in South Africa. A task team, which is still in the process of being established, will implement the policy. The team, comprising officials from the DBE, the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, SA-Chinese cultural institutions and schools that already offer Mandarin, will also provide training in addition to the approved curriculum.

Criticism of the policy
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has expressed criticism towards the policy. Sadtu’s general secretary Mugwena Maluleke told the Mail & Guardian the union would oppose the language’s introduction to the curriculum, describing it as the “worst form of imperialism”. However, the DBE has shown no signs of burying the programme.

Thoughts from student teachers
Kayley Stewart, a final year student teacher at Wits, said students had not been made aware of the policy. South African teachers would have to go through large amounts of additional training to be able to implement the programme. “Personally, I don’t think the policy would work because I don’t think it’s something that can be successfully implemented if they [the DBE] are already struggling to introduce an African language into the school system,” said Stewart.

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