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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 10:00 GMT
Zimbabwe planning Chinese lessons
Boy reading
Education has suffered from the dramatic economic decline of recent years
Zimbabwe's government hopes to see Mandarin Chinese taught in universities as the school year starts in February.

The plan is part of President Robert Mugabe's "Look East" policy. It is not clear whether Chinese will be a compulsory subject.

The government is trying to build closer economic links with China amid worsening relations with the West.

Education Minister Stan Mudenge said he had held talks with the Chinese authorities on the matter.

He said the government wanted to offer a curriculum that would see students from all Zimbabwe's universities taking Chinese to promote tourism and trade between the two countries.


"At a recent meeting I held in Paris with my counterpart, the Chinese minister of education, we agreed to intensify our programmes in the field of education, cultural exchange programmes including language training," Mr Mudenge said, quoted by the Zimbabwean newspaper The Standard.

The Zimbabwe National Association of Student Unions criticised the government's plans.

"It seems they are trying every political gimmick to lure the Chinese into this country to bankroll their bankrupt regime," the association's president, Washington Katema, told the South African newspaper, The Star.

"But they should not do that at the expense of students."

Observers say that offering Chinese to all university students would require many more Chinese teachers to be brought into the country.

Investment and tourism revenues from the west have plummeted in recent years, prompting President Robert Mugabe to look increasingly to Asia to try to help his country's troubled economy.

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