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Education helps build relationships

Date Released: Sun, 27 January 2013 15:30 +0200

More than 10,000 South Africans are learning Chinese in universities and secondary and primary schools around the country thanks to efforts by the Chinese government to enhance Chinese language education in South Africa.

Co-operation between China and South Africa in the fields of higher and basic education was one of the focuses of the Beijing Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries in August 2010. This was another highlight in the diplomatic relationship that emphasises the centrality of education to Africa’s sustainable development.

Education was stressed as a pillar on which China would build its relations with the continent according to the Sharm El-Sheikh Action Plan adopted at the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Conference in 2009.

In 2010, China’s Ministry of Education launched its "20+20 Co-operation Plan" for Chinese and African institutions of higher education, resulting in 20 Chinese and 20 African colleges establishing one-on-one interinstitutional co-operation.

Among them, at least two pairs involve Chinese and South African institutions of higher learning to ensure practical co-operation that would help brand the educational co-operation between China and Africa and enrich its content. China’s Northeast Normal University has paired with the University of Pretoria and the China Hunan University paired with Stellenbosch University.

Meanwhile, at least 20 Chinese teachers and volunteers have been sent by the Chinese government to South Africa to assist with the teaching of Chinese, among other things.

To promote the learning of Chinese and the understanding of Chinese culture around the world, the Chinese government sponsored the Confucius Institute to spread its wings as a vehicle for culture and education, establishing 36 institutes and classrooms in 26 African countries.

In South Africa, Confucius Institutes have been set up in Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University. A Confucius Classroom has been set up at the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Constantia.

China also established 10 foreign centres as research and training bases for foreign scholars. Many South African researchers have attended training and exchange workshops in China that were sponsored by the Chinese government.

Since 2010, China has built 50 China-Africa friendship schools for Africa and renovated two professional training schools in South Africa. China has also been co-operating closely with South Africa in the fields of agriculture skills training and the training of teachers.

There are more than 300 South African students studying in China, among whom 150 are on Chinese government scholarships. The Chinese government will also sponsor six South African students in a Master of Public Administration and 30 South African Chinese language students to study in China. The governments are working out details of an additional 200 scholarships intended for South African scholars in the next five years.

China has also supported Unesco’s educational activities in Africa since 2007 with a contribution of $1m that benefited the Unesco International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa and the International Centre for Girls and Women’s Education.

Every year, China works together with Unesco to place $2m into a trust fund in support of Africa’s educational programmes. China has trained close to 40,000 African personnel in various sectors, and provided more than 20,000 government scholarships to African countries since 2006. During the FOCAC conference last July, China further pledged to implement the "African Talents Program" to train 30,000 personnel in different sectors, offering a further 18,000 government scholarships and building cultural and vocational skills training facilities.

  • This article was published on Business Day Live.