GABORONE – Excitement and joy could be felt as students at Legae Middle School of English in Gaborone, Botswana, greeted their teacher Goitseone Ishmael with the Chinese phrase nihao, which literally translates to ‘hello’ in English, before she started her Chinese lesson.

“Today we are going to start our class by watching a Chinese movie,” she says, and the students jump for joy. Some students ask if it is the well-known actor Jackie Chan. Eventually, she manages to get them to settle down.

Ishmael, also known as Liu Weiwei in Chinese, began her work as an assistant Chinese teacher at Legae English Medium School in 2022. She now teaches around 350 students in 14 classes per week from Standard 3 to Standard 6.

After graduating from college with an associate’s degree in business information systems, Ishmael was encouraged by her sister to enroll in the Confucius Institute at the University of Botswana (CIUB) in 2017.

“During my studies at CIUB, I developed a strong interest in the Chinese language, culture and way of life, especially in August 2018, I set foot for the first time in China thanks to the summer camp of CIUB,” she told Xinhua in an interview.

Ishmael went to study at Shanghai Normal University in China in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, she was unable to return to China to complete the final semester and ended up completing it online and graduate in Botswana.

As an assistant Chinese teacher, Ishmael has his main teaching job like teaching students Chinese songs, teaching them how to make paper cut or lanterns. She also helps Zhang Lu, the only Chinese teacher who comes from CIUB, to teach the Chinese language.

“Teaching a language is really interesting and the children are always interested in learning more, especially about Chinese culture, food and they even ask a lot of questions during my class, like what is the name of the thing they like in Chinese,” she said, adding that most students have wanted to visit China since she started teaching them.

According to Ishmael, Batswana can benefit greatly from learning the Chinese language. She says that in China everything is convenient, such as transportation and payment methods, so they can learn and see how they can improve services here. People there can also go and teach English in China due to the demand for English teachers.

The 33-year-old teacher encouraged people to consider a career in the Chinese language. “It’s not just for communication, it will open up another opportunity for them. There are different kinds of jobs one can do after learning Chinese, such as working as a Chinese teacher, translator or interpreter,” says -she.

Basel Ncaagae, director of the Legae English Medium School, explains that Chinese was introduced full-time in 2018 after the management expressed a desire to move away from the Chinese club, given that the club did not reach many. students. And due to the large number of students who have expressed interest in learning Chinese, the school has set up a full-time Chinese language study program called Confucius Classes.

Some of the content the class teaches children is greeting in Chinese, counting numbers in Chinese, introducing themselves in Chinese, their age, talking about the weather and the time. Children also participate in the Elementary School China Bridge where the winner has the opportunity to travel to China and represent the school. There are competitions like talent shows that students can also participate in.