Sierra Leone’s deputy Envoy to the People’s Republic of China, has referred the establishment of a Confucius Institute at Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone (USL) four years ago as “a symbol of the growing China-Sierra Leone friendship” with the university being the fore runner institution.
Madam Kumba Alice Momoh was speaking on Monday, 23 May, 2016, at a forum hosted at Gannan Normal University, Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province. The forum was centered on “The Confucius Institute: A Facilitator of Educational and Cultural Communication between China and Sierra Leone.”
According to Madam Momoh, Confucius Institute plays a crucial role in furthering the development cooperation between the two countries in the area of cultural exchanges, adding that its establishment in Sierra Leone as in most African countries came as a follow-up measure “to the resolution of the 2012 FOCAC Ministerial Conference.
The University of Sierra Leone (USL), she said, has a reputation for credibility, human resource enhancement and capacity building, being the first institution of higher education in the sub-region. Hence, she admonished the university authorities to do their utmost best to strengthen the desired and cordial relationship with the Gannan Normal University so as to facilitate more exchange visits.
With plans underway for Sierra Leone to be home country of the West African Regional Office of the Confucius Institute, Madam Momoh was “hopeful that this idea is being pursued earnestly by both sides for its fullest realization soonest”, whiles assuring of the Embassy’s determination to render whatever help it could towards realizing such a laudable dream.
Sierra Leone, she said, looks forward to an increase in the activities of the Gannan Normal University and an increase in the number of scholarships being awarded to students to pursue further studies in Chinese language.
Professor Ekundayo J.D. Thompson is Acting Vice Chancellor, USL. Presenting a paper on “Internationalization and Partnership: the Common Denominator”, he said a common denominator in the process of internationalization and partnership “is people’s collaboration and solidarity”.
He said the Confucius Institute’s presence at the University of Sierra Leone “is part of the process of internationalization of Confucius Institute worldwide”. Giving a background to the establishment of the Confucius Institute in Sierra Leone, the Vice Chancellor highlighted the successes it has achieved as well as the difficult moments, specifically referencing the effect of the recent Ebola outbreak on its operations.
The mandates of USL, Professor Thompson said, “…are Teaching, Research and Community Services”. As such, through Teaching and Community Services “Confucius Institute buys into these mandates” as the teaching function is centered on the Chinese Language and Culture.
Professor Liu Hande, Vice Dean of the College of Foreign Languages at Gannan Normal University, and first Director of Confucius Institute in Sierra Leone, spoke on the role of Confucius Institute in the Promotion of Cultural Exchanges. He said social attitudes, such as mutual understanding, “are the keystone for successful economic development” and “through dialogue between civilizations as well as communication and exchanges”, answers could be provided to many of the common problems facing humanity.
If students are to have global vision and international competitive capacity, Professor Liu said, it is “very important to understand and learn about the rest of the world”, as international competitive capacity refers to not only subjects of natural science or math, but also to other languages and cultures.
Globally today, he said, there are 1.9 million registered students in 134 countries, with 1000 Confucius classrooms and 40,000 per-time or full-time foreign and local teachers.
In Sierra Leone, he went on, there are more than 800 learners in FBC, IPAM, FBC Secondary School, and Montessori International School registered for Chinese courses yearly. He went on to explain that the Confucius Institute at USL has offered Chinese language teaching for learners at different levels since its establishment, and organized various events of cultural exchanges programmes such as scholarships; Visit-China programs and a pending Music & dance recital to Freetown.
The development of culture, Professor Liu said, “is virtually the construction of an invisible road that brings mutual understanding, mutual appreciation and mutual trust” and like the “soul bridge” that connects people from different cultures along such a long physical economic corridor.
Other speakers were USL Registrar, SN Dumbuya, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (USL), Alpha B. Savage, Deputy Secretary General of Ganzhou Municipal Government, Xue Youchang and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Gannan Normal University, Qui Xiaoyun.
The event was attended by a delegation of 10 from the University of Sierra Leone and hundreds of university students of Gannan Normal University.
John Baimba Sesay
Sierra Leone Embassy-CHINA