Chinese Language In South African Schools and Universities; Soft Power Or Imperialism?

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye


It is becoming contentious if Chinese Language in African universities and schools is a tool for soft power of imperialism.

Forty-four schools across South Africa introduced the teaching of Mandarin in 2016.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said at the time that 27 schools in the Western Cape Province introduced Mandarin, the highest number in the country, followed by Gauteng (11), the Eastern Cape (three) and KwaZulu-Natal (three). She also disclosed that schools in other provinces will follow (Mail & Guardian).

The introduction of Mandarin in the public school curriculum is in addition to the establishment of Confucius Institutes (CIs) in the country. So far, there are five  CIs in South Africa, with the latest being the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute (UJCI). Furthermore, the Pretoria Chinese School, established in the 1930s by the Chinese Community, teaches Mandarin from pre-school to grade 12. It is independent of Hanban, a Chinese state agency that manages CIs across the world