Rapapa encourages proficiency in Mandarin



MASERU – The Minister of Education, Professor Ntoi Rapapa, is committed to advancing efforts to assist local youths’ proficiency in Mandarin. Currently it has become essential for all Basotho and not just the youth, to learn the Chinese language, he said, while also urging parents to always support their children when they want to participate in Chinese initiatives.

Rapapa was speaking during the Machabeng College Confucius Classroom’s 16th Chinese Bridge Proficiency competition for foreign Secondary School Students at the school in Maseru last Sunday.

He also appreciated the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho, Lei Kezhong, for the role they have so far played in the development of Lesotho.  The Chinese Bridge Mandarin Proficiency for foreign Secondary School students is a large scale international Chinese language competition organised by the Centre for Chinese Language, Education and Cooperation to stimulate the enthusiasm of foreign teenagers to learn Chinese.

The course gives secondary school students the opportunity to learn Chinese and enhance the world’s understanding of the Chinese language and culture to enable them to engage with the Chinese for jobs or scholarship opportunities for future purposes. The 2023 Chinese Bridge Proficiency competition preliminary contest had 10 contestants drawn from Machabeng College, a platform for the 1st prize winner to advance to and compete in China with other learners from different countries across the globe.

During the competition, Machabeng College Director Confucius Classroom, Pontšo Thatho, highlighted this year’s theme, ‘Fly high in Chinese’, which he said they plan take to the country’s 10 districts. The competition was sponsored by the Chinese Embassy in Maseru and the Machabeng College Confucius Classroom. Speaking at the event, Machabeng College headmaster, James Kamau, said learning a new language opens doors for new opportunities in diplomatic missions and translation, while also creating opportunities for scholarships to further studies in foreign countries.

The college continues to embrace education in Lesotho, hence embracing Mandarin to be taken as a tool that young people can use as they grow up to assist them in their future professional life, he added.  On the other hand, Chinese Ambassador Kezhong highlighted that language remains an important tool of communication today, pointing out to Mandarin as a bridge to better understanding Chinese people and their culture.

He expressed hope that the participants would be brave and confident enough to use the language and the skills they have acquired. The envoy also encouraged young people to learn the Chinese language as way of contributing to more collaboration between Lesotho and China.

The Chinese Bridge Proficiency competition was broken into three stages, that is: Chinese oral expression ability test – a talent show comprising paper cutting, drunk butterflies, singing, handwriting; Chinese dance; and, martial arts as well as general knowledge questions about China.

The First Prize winner walked away with a tablet computer worth M3 000 and a trip to China to compete with peers from other countries. There were three Second Prize winners who each received a tablet computer worth M2 880 while there were six Third Prize winners who were each awarded electronic watches worth M700. This is an annual competition that has been held since 2008, and consists of two stages which are overseas preliminaries (Lesotho Finals), and the semi-finals to be held in China. In 2023, with the weakening of Covid-19 virus, China has reopened its doors to the world and the international Chinese competition has also gradually returned.

The qualifiers in Lesotho not only select and cultivate outstanding talents of the finalist who will eventually compete in China, but also provide a platform for young Lesotho students learning Chinese to demonstrate their Chinese ability, learn and communicate with each other, so as to encourage their enthusiasm to learn Mandarin and Chinese culture. The event also serves to promote educational and cultural exchanges between China and Lesotho.

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