Feature: Chinese language lessons in South Sudan boost hope for employment

Updated: August 10, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
fontLarger fontSmaller

JUBA, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Collins Baraka, 35, packed his bags in December 2021 and left his native the Democratic Republic of the Congo for South Sudan in search of job opportunities.

He did not immediately find the well-paying job he had dreamt of, but following the advice of his close Rwandese friend, he enrolled in the Chinese language class at the Juba Day Secondary School in July.

Baraka is among hundreds of Chinese language students who have to juggle between work during morning hours and attending language lessons in the afternoon in a small classroom in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

He said his eagerness to learn the Chinese language could open opportunities for him to return and find work with Chinese companies in his homeland.

"Learning a new language is much more important than money because you can get money and it gets finished but learning a language sticks in your mind," Baraka told Xinhua during an interview in Juba on Tuesday.

"I know with my Chinese language I will be in a better position to get job opportunities with Chinese nationals in my country. Chinese people are also in my country undertaking big construction projects," remarked Baraka who is fluent in both English and French.

Mutebutsi, who is Baraka's close associate, operates a small business in the Nyakuron suburb of Juba but still finds time to attend Chinese language lessons.

He said in his native Rwanda enrolling in the Chinese language now has become quite expensive due to high public demand, adding that South Sudanese have great opportunities to learn it for free.

"I would like to tell the people of South Sudan not to lose this opportunity, in Rwanda when Chinese language lessons started around 2015, they were free but now people are paying a lot of money to study the language," Mutebutsi said.

The Chinese language learning and cultural exchange program under the Phase II Technical Cooperation Project of Education in South Sudan opened in July 2021.

Up to the end of November 2022, about 100 certificates have been given out to the learners who have demonstrated passion and competence in the Chinese language at the language center in Juba Day Secondary School.

Mutebutsi said learning Chinese has increasingly become a trending phenomenon for many people in East Africa as Africa-China cooperation grows.

Ismail Kuyu, an 18-year-old unemployed South Sudanese who is awaiting to enroll for university education, said he enrolled in June for Chinese language lessons because he wants to apply for a scholarship to study in China.

"Chinese language is an international language that is widely spoken. I want to learn it because it increases my chances of getting employment with any Chinese company or a scholarship to study at a Chinese university," Kuyu said.

"It's a little bit difficult to learn the language but when you put in your faith it becomes simple to learn it," Kuyu added.

Hans Daniel, 26, an intern doctor at Juba Teaching Hospital, said Chinese people are contributing a lot to the development of South Sudan.

"Chinese have done a lot of projects here such as the modernization of Juba Teaching Hospital, and they have several experts who are helping South Sudanese," Daniel said.

Daniel added that he got inspired to enroll in Chinese language lessons to tap into the skills of the China medical teams working at Juba Teaching Hospital.

"They have advanced skills in medicine, but we need to learn Chinese to tap into their skills for our benefit," Daniel said.

Gatluak Duop William, a student of civil engineering at the University of Juba, said that he decided to enroll in Chinese language lessons immediately after joining the university in January.

"I made sure to pursue my Chinese language lessons since it is for free, I actually could not miss the chance," William said.

"South Sudanese, especially the youth, should not miss this great opportunity because in the future it could cost a fortune to learn the Chinese language," William added.

Zhao Yongqiang, a Chinese language and culture facilitator and also the residential supervisor for the center, said that his students have always grappled with the challenge of balancing work and attending Mandarin lessons.

"I ask some of them why they do not frequently attend classes, and they tell me they need to look for money for upkeep," Zhao said.

Zhao noted that the Phase II Technical Cooperation Project of Education in South Sudan which is going to conclude in July next year has been a success.

"There are many students who speak fluent Chinese. I have been encouraging my students to often practice the language by visiting Chinese people to interact with them. This language requires one to practice by interacting with those who are fluent in it," Zhao added.

Editor: Tian Shenyoujia