Five volunteer undergraduate students from Japan’s Yamagata University are currently undertaking a three week cultural exchange programme as Japanese tutors at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). The students are teaching their Kenyan counterparts the Japanese language in a move aimed at strengthening cultural ties and diversity among nationals of the two nations.
The exchange programme which is part of cooperation signed in 2012 between the two universities saw three JKUAT students represent Africa in a cultural interaction and exchange programme at Yamagata University in August 2013.
According to Ms. Joan Kiploma, Japanese tutor at JKUAT, the programme is critical to students and staff who are interested in learning Japanese as an added foreign language.
“Knowledge of Japanese is important given the increasing interest of Japan not only in Kenya but also in Africa,” says Ms. Kiplimo, adding that the initiative is instrumental in exposing Kenyan students to the culture of Japanese.
Shiori Abe, a third year psychology student who is part of the team from Yamagata agrees the exchange programme has expanded her world and exposure. This, she believes, gives her a competitive advantage in employment opportunities outside her home country.
“With a number of Japanese companies setting bases in Kenya, this cultural interaction fosters our ability and interest to work here,” notes Shiori.
Over 40 students drawn from all academic departments are currently taking Japanese classes offered by the volunteers at JKUAT. Some of the students who started classes last year have confirmed benefits with a number able to engage in intelligent conversation in Japanese.
Carolyn Kamau, a fourth year Environmental Engineering at JKUAT is for example undertaking advanced classes in Japanese. In her studies, she says, they encounter manuals of equipment from Japan which they cannot read and understand.
“Learning Japanese has empowered me. I hope to explore career opportunities in Japan upon completing my studies,” reckons Carolyn.
Other volunteer Japanese tutors include Go Yamashita, Nshiki Uchibe, Ikkan Nakagawa and Youto Ochiai.
Ms. Kiploma urges students and staff to utilize their extra timely constructively be undertaking Japanese language, currently offered free of charge at JKUAT.