SA matrics make history - by writing in Mandarin
Twenty pupils, including 19 pupils from seven private schools, registered to write the Mandarin paper
MichaeI Lee is hoping to write himself into history, with a distinction in Mandarin.
This week Lee and two classmates, Jaryd Templar and Timothy Maddock from Kearsney College in KwaZulu-Natal, were among a group of pupils who wrote the first Mandarin matric exam in SA.
Twenty pupils, including 19 pupils from seven private schools, registered to write the language paper.
The papers were set by the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), which administers exams for mostly private schools.
Lee, 18, chose to study Chinese as a third language in grade 8.
"Just the learning of symbols and characters . is very difficult in itself. There's a lot of memorisation involved."
Lee's quick grasp of the subject won him a subject prize this year.
The two matric papers, written on Monday and Tuesday, comprised comprehension, literature and transactional writing.
"I don't want to jump the gun but I am hopeful of an A," said Lee.
He received academic honours cum laude this year for achieving an 86% aggregate. He enrolled for eight subjects, including advanced programme maths.
Lee visited China this year with seven classmates, who also studied Mandarin.
The Mandarin programme at Kearsney College is offered in partnership with the Confucius Institute in Beijing, which arranged the visit. It pays for the pupils' Chinese teacher, Xu Dai.
Dai, who also teaches Chinese culture, said Lee was likely to achieve a distinction in Mandarin.
"They are very brave because it's a new thing for them. There's no past year exam papers because they are the first matrics to write the exams," Dai said of Kearsney's Mandarin pupils. "I am very proud of them."
Dai also moderated the oral exams of all candidates.
Besides offering English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Mandarin, Kearsney offers conversational French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian in grades 8 and 9.
Elwyn van den Aardweg, headmaster of Kearsney, said: "We strive for excellence at all levels, academically and extramurally, with a goal of empowering boys."
Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the department of basic education, said that Mandarin was offered for the first time this year at matric level and that the IEB had set the papers on behalf of the department.
As part of a pilot project organised by the department and the Chinese government in 2016, seven Chinese volunteers have been teaching Mandarin as an optional extra subject at 10 Pretoria schools.