VIOLET MENGO, Tokyo, Japan
IN LINE with the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) that was held in 2008 in Yokohama, where the ‘One School, One Country” initiative was born, Zambia has been an active implementer of the programme.
The Zambian embassy in Japan has been implementing the “One School, One Country” project since its adoption and is happy to share with Japanese learners things about the country.
Kenzan and Kamsugeta Elementary School learners are exposed to the Zambian culture, tradition, food and tourist attractions, among others.
Whenever the embassy officials are invited to the two schools, they take the children through the Zambian-related issues that would help the learners know about the country.
The interaction between the Zambian officials and the Japanese students at the two schools help to promote understanding of the cultural differences and similarities of the two countries.
Zambia’s Ambassador to Japan Ndiyoyi Mutiti explained that the “One School, One Country” initiative is an opportunity for Zambia to promote the country’s way of life and culture to the Japanese learners.
“Each time the Zambian officials are called upon to interact with the Japanese schoolchildren, it offers us a unique opportunity for learners to know more about Zambia,” the ambassador said.
The “One School, One Country” project was introduced in 2008 at the fourth TICAD to promote international understanding between Africa and Japan.
TICAD contributes to the facilitation and promotion of high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and Africa’s development partners on issues pertaining to economic growth, trade and investment, sustainable development, human security, peace and stability, as well as governance.
Under the “One School, One Country” project, officials from African embassies are invited to elementary and middle schools in Japan’s cities to provide deeper understanding of Africa by sharing information and their countries and interacting with students.
Recently, 11 African journalists were invited to Japan by the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cover the TICAD ministerial gathering that took place from October 6 to 7, 2018.
The journalists visited an elementary school in Yokohama to take a look at how the programme is implemented and the Japanese school day is like.
The school, which is attached to Ghana’s embassy, is one success story that shows the connections between Africa and Japan.
Learners at Tateno Elementary School displayed various African flags as a symbol of welcome to the journalists.
The students, who are quite knowledgeable about Ghana, were eager to know something about the journalists’ countries of origin.
A student who displayed a Zambian flag was anxious to know about the country and so he kept asking questions about the country, how the people look and the language spoken by the local people.
Tateno School principal Ishibashi Takashige said the institution often interacts with officers from the embassy of Ghana in Japan.
“During the interactions, children are able to ask questions about Ghana’s history, the environment, staple food and life in general. The children are most times very eager to learn about Africa,” Mr Takashige said.
He explained that as part of the school programme practised in most government schools in Japan, learners get their meals at school.
After meals, the children take part in the cleaning exercise and are well organised in sorting out their used materials from food such as the milk bottles, which is done in a systematic manner.
It was quite clear that the learners were excited to see Africans and were eager to know every bit about the continent.
“Where is Zambia? What is the occupation of most people in Zambia? A student asked me.
Another student popped the question: “What language do the Zambian people use? Is it any similar to Japanese language?”
Following the launch of the One School, One Country campaign, students at each of Yokohama’s 55 municipal elementary schools have studied one of the 35 African countries that have embassies in Japan.
The campaign introduces Japanese students to the ‘charms of African life’ and gives them a chance to experience it for themselves.
According to the Independent, Japan is one of the top performing countries for literacy, science, and maths in the OECD group.
Japanese students go through six years of elementary school, three years of junior high school, and three years of high school before deciding whether or not they want to go to university. High school is not compulsory but enrolment is close to 98 percent.
The “One School, One Country” project is helping many Japanese learners to know about Africa in the hope that as they grow up, they will be able to appreciate the place of the continent in the global community.
VIOLET MENGO, Tokyo, Japan