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Meet Ugandans reaping from teaching in China

By Mubarak Mugabo

Added 28th January 2020 08:33 AM

This November, we visited Changying area located in Chaoyang district of Beijing and met Kalema Joseph, 30, working as a freelance African cultural teacher in various Beijing kindergartens.

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This November, we visited Changying area located in Chaoyang district of Beijing and met Kalema Joseph, 30, working as a freelance African cultural teacher in various Beijing kindergartens.

One afternoon as I was getting out of the Agricultural Exhibition metro station near the Ugandan embassy in Beijing, I met an Australian man who wanted to know what I was doing in Beijing.

Like many, Matt had a negative feeling and wrong perception that they’re no foreigners earning a living especially in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China capital.

My unscheduled meeting with Matt preempted me to start looking for Ugandans working to earn a living in China.

This November, we visited Changying area located in Chaoyang district of Beijing and met Kalema Joseph, 30, working as a freelance African cultural teacher in various Beijing kindergartens. 

Not like many Africans who are teaching English in China, Kalema is instead teaching African traditional instruments and music to young Chinese.

He was working as an attendant in a Chinese owned Golden Casino in Kampala before traveling to China.
“I was working in a Casino in Kampala and then started selling clothes in downtown but I could not even raise a million shillings a month. In 2016, I decided to travel to China and now I can raise some money for my family and other businesses back home,” Kalema told the New Vision.

He traveled to China through a Chinese company scholarship called Cucus where he was supposed to be upgrade.

“When I arrived here, I realised I had to work as I study so to meet other necessities and that’s how I started working in China,” He explained.

He further explained that he can now raise 8,000 RMBs ($1000) per month, he pays rent, buys food and the rest he buys commodities in Beijing and sends to Kampala for sale.

This gives him the opportunity to invest his salary in the importation of household items to Kampala. Prior to traveling to China, Kalema first traveled to Dubai in 2013 but he says life never changed.

Kalema who is also a resident of Kasubi LCIII, says he does not intend to come back to Uganda in the nearest future because as a young man, he is still looking for more opportunities in China before returning home.

In Xinghomen, located in Daxing one of the southern districts of Beijing, is another Ugandan Edwin Mark Nuwagira, a former head of consumer lending at Equity Bank headquarters in Katwe.

Nuwagira now teaches English at Bridge School of Chinese. He is in the department of languages and adult education.


 A Ugandan teacher with his students in China. Courtesy photos

Nuwagira told the New Vision that his main clients are mostly employees of Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen and other multinationals including Germany and Chinese nationals.

“In 2014, I lost my job, but it was stressful with a 1.2m salary then my friends helped me secure a freelance teaching job in Beijing, which I did for over 3 years until I got this one which gives me 5 times what I used to earn at Equity,” Nuwagira said.

Besides teaching, he also started sending items including electronic products to Kampala to his wife to sell.

“My wife was earning about sh700,000, but I realised that if she started selling the products I send to her, she will earn more than that and it was true. She now earns three times  the previous salary,” Nuwagira said.

He says children’s shoes, clothing, home appliances, and electronic equipment are among the products he sends to Kampala for sale.

Nuwagira said he has achieved a lot working in China with his children attending good schools, his family is living a good life having started different businesses in Kampala.

However, according to the Chinese education system, they’re qualifications required for any teacher to teach English in China and among them is being a native English speaker.

Uganda is not on the list of the English native speaking countries hence becoming a disadvantage to many who would want to apply for these job opportunities.

The chairman of Uganda-China forum, an association which unites Ugandans living in northern parts of China Kanjako Benedict said that they brought the issue of asking the Chinese authorities to put Ugandans among the English native speakers to President Yoweri Museveni during his visit to China this year.

“Whereas they’re schools which accept Ugandans as English teachers especially in Ningbo province, they’re still few schools in Beijing which allow it,” Kanjako said.

Kanjako is also the owner of Long Day Technology Company Limited, a Beijing based consultancy company on trade, tourism, and investment.

Before his visit to China in June to attend the first-ever China-Africa trade Economic and trade expo in Changsha Hunan province, President Museveni held discussions with Ugandans staying in China.

“When he (President) came here, one of the issues we asked him to do is Government to Government negotiations to allow Ugandans to be accepted as English native speakers and to teach in all parts of China,” Kanjako said.

Uganda’s deputy ambassador to China, Henry Mayega said the Government has been following up on the matter and progress is being made.

“Absolutely, Ugandan English teachers raised the issue with H.E. President Yoweri Museveni. Indeed the two principles Presidents Museveni and Xi Jinping discussed the matter and in due course, a middle ground will be found” Mayega told the New Vision.

However, they also face challenges, while transacting their businesses, especially at Entebbe International Airport.

 “Look, when I send my commodities through the airport, Uganda Revenue Authority doesn’t have a clear list of taxes we’re supposed to pay, some times you find different rates,” Nuwagira said.

Also that some traders are treated differently by URA at customs yet they bring in the same products.

Nuwagira said having worked in China for over five years, he intends to go back to Kampala to give physical presence to the businesses he has put in place.


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