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Youths rush to embrace Chinese language, culture

By Xinhua in Kampala, Uganda (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-09 07:55

In the remote mountainous district of Kanungu, Uganda, Osbert Atuheire braves the morning mist and biting cold to go and till the land, a daily routine when away from school.

As the sun rises on the rolling hills in this part of the country, Atuheire's future also seems to be increasingly certain.

In two days, he will be packing his bags to go to China to take part in a competition that will among others prove his proficiency in speaking Chinese and understanding the country's culture.

For Atuheire's family, life is not easy. They have to work the land and graze animals for long hours every day to be able to afford to send him to university.

Atuheire is the fifth born among a family of six children. He is pursuing a bachelor's degree at the country's prestigious Makerere University located in the capital Kampala. He majors in philosophy and Chinese language.

Atuheire is among about 700 students learning Chinese at the Chinese Confucius Institute on the university campus.

What seemed to be a strange language to many Ugandans two years ago is increasingly becoming appreciated.

"When I told my father I was applying to learn to speak Chinese, he had a very negative attitude," Atuheire said, speaking under the shade of a tree in the institute's compound.

He said that when he explained to his father the opportunities that speaking Chinese could bring, his father finally accepted.

Atuheire argues that for the short time he has been at the institute, there have been many job offers from Chinese companies that frequent it looking for people who can speak Chinese.

China's increasing global influence and its economic might partly explain the push in Uganda to understand the Chinese language and culture.

Hong Yonghong, Chinese director of the Confucius Institute said, "If we can understand each other's culture, then we can improve our relationship."

Tucked away on the outskirts of Kampala is Luyanzi College, a secondary school that pioneered the teaching of Chinese in Uganda.

In a class of about 40 students, a Chinese instructor teaches them the different sounds of Chinese words.

Kampala is home to several agencies that are cashing in on teaching Chinese with promises to learn the language within two weeks.

Apart from the increasing number of lavish Chinese restaurants opening up in Kampala, low-cost Chinese eateries are also increasing on the outskirts of the capital.

Based on this urge to understand Chinese culture, the Ugandan government is considering integrating Chinese language into the school curriculum.

Talks are continuing with the Chinese government to ensure that the plan is realized.

China is one of Uganda's main trading partners. According to the Chinese embassy, bilateral trade this year has reached $377 million, an increase of 23.2 percent on last year.

China's soft loans to Uganda have reached $2.5 billion. These loans are targeting key infrastructure construction projects that will unlock the African nation's economic potential.

Projects such as construction of roads, dams, a railway and expansion of the country's international airport have already started.

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