MONROVIA: The Confucius Institute of the University of Liberia has held a one-day symposium on Chinese language education in West Africa.
The symposium on Saturday, April 23, 2022, brought Confucius Institutes at partnered universities in West Africa to include, the University of Ghana, University of Lagos, and Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria, the University of Sierra Leone and the University of Benin to discuss progress and challenges of the program in West Africa.
The Confucius Institute of the University of Liberia (CIUL), as the first Confucius Institute in West Africa, was jointly established by the University of Liberia and Changsha University of Science & Technology in Monrovia in December 2008.
CIUL is the only institution providing Chinese language courses for free and the only Chinese Test Center to organize HSK, HSKK, in Liberia. The institute aims to promote cultural exchange and friendship between Liberia and China.
According to the institute, in 2021, there were 1,420 registered students, while total students that have enrolled in various programs were 21,420. Dexter S. Sumo, Director of the Institute said that this year, they will have 59 classes with a total of 3,448 teaching hours, while two classes of Chinese courses are arranged to cater for 40 social students.
University of Liberia president, Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, speaking at the event in Monrovia, disclosed that the university takes pride to be the “backbone”, of Chinese language education in West Africa.
He explained that in June this year, the administration of the university is expected to present to the faculty senate of the university a proposal to approve the Bachelor of Arts program proposal for Chinese language and cultural studies.
“This partnership with the Confucius Institute goes beyond our borders. And we are encouraging everyone, especially Liberians to learn the Chinese language”, Dr. Nelson said.
Currently, Chinese language and cultural studies is offered as undergraduate major by the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos, and at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria, the University of Ghana, University of Sierra Leone and the University of Benin.
In a special statement, Chinese Ambassador to Liberia Ren Yisheng, said: “It is a great pleasure to join you online at the Symposium on Chinese education in West Africa. Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been ravaging the world since its outbreak. Countries around the world have been tiding over the difficulties together, supporting and sticking with each other through thick and thin. The pandemic has brought us closer and made us stronger”.
Ambassador Ren said that peace and benevolence are traditional values that are deeply rooted in the heart of the Chinese people, and that’s why the Chinese language is a “key”, that opens the door to understanding these values, such as Confucius’ teaching of “harmony without uniformity”.
According to him, the Chinese language is a “golden key”, as he expressed hope that Liberians and other Africans will use the language to open the door to understanding Chinese civilization and to promote mutual learning, mutual respect, and mutual trust not only between China and Liberia, China and West Africa but also between China and Africa, Asian and African civilizations.
He explained that the Chinese language acquisition has a special and significant role to play, especially in three aspects including to gather support for world peace, paving the way for mutual assistance and win-win cooperation, and it opens the door to mutual learning and profound understanding.
Also speaking was Prof. Josephine Dzahene Quarshie of the Confucius Institute of the University of Ghana, and on the topic: “Thriving in a time of Crisis”. Prof. Quarshie explained that Ghana has over 1000 Chinese major students in the BA program, with the language program being taught at eight teaching sites having 4,000 students across the country.
For Nigeria, the Institute Local Director Dr. Banwo Adetoro Olaniyi of the University of Lagos, explaining on the “Dynamics of Chinese Language Teaching, a case study at the University of Lagos stated that Chinese language education has become necessary in Nigeria as the country seeks to deepen it cooperation with China.
He indicated that scholars in Nigeria have observed that access to educational opportunities, jobs and travel opportunities have been a major drive for Nigerians towards learning Chinese language.
However, he noted that globalization, education and economic demands motivate bilingualism and language adoption, adding that recognizing that the spread of Chinese language is necessitated and motivated by Globalization and economic demands, the promotion of Chinese language education in Nigeria becomes important in China-Nigerian cooperation.
Prof. Segbo Julien of University of Benin said that the institute has over 3,000 students in its program, while Rev. Oliver Harding of the University of Sierra Leone Confucius Institute said over 4,000 students are enrolled in the BA and other programs as well.