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Kenyan Confucius Institute held up as model for Africa

Updated: 2015-05-22 09:19
By Lucie Morangi (China Daily Africa)

The Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi has been chosen as a model for the nonprofit organization in Africa after being recognized for its consistently high standard of education over the past 11 years, a senior official said.

Isaac Mbeche, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi, said the college will receive about 1 billion Kenyan shillings ($10.1 million) to elevate the department to continental level.

"Every year we have been recognized as being among the best in the world, and we have been chosen as the model Confucius Institute on the continent," said Mbeche, who is also director of the Kenyan institute.

Kenyan Confucius Institute held up as model for Africa

A student performs Chinese dance during the 14th Chinese Bridge language proficiency competition held in Nairobi on May 18. The competition was organized by the Chinese embassy in Kenya and the University of Nairobi's Confucius Institute. Pan Siwei / Xinhua

"From certificates to undergraduate and now doctorate programs, we are spreading the Chinese language by integrating it in other programs, such as economics and engineering. This gives our students a competitive edge in the job market."

Mbeche said the institute is also working closely with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, a government agency tasked with developing programs and teaching materials in preparation for the introduction of Chinese into the national curriculum.

"We are developing materials that will be used in elementary schools and in higher education," the deputy vice-chancellor said, adding that the University of Nairobi is at the forefront of promoting Chinese language and culture in Kenya.

Kenya will introduce optional Chinese classes in primary and secondary schools in 2017.

Mbeche was speaking at the opening ceremony of this year's Chinese Bridge competition, in which 17 students from Kenyan universities battled it out in Nairobi.

Under the theme "My Chinese Dream", contestants presented essays, took part in a Q&A session, and showcased their knowledge of Chinese language and culture. The contest has been running since December 2013.

Enos Njeru, dean of the college's school of humanities and social sciences, said the competition has elevated the profile of the Kenyan university.

"The Chinese department has put us on the map as a center of excellence," he said. "It has also increased the visibility of the humanities school, which accounts for 62 percent of the university's programs."

He said the content of the competition is important both educationally and culturally, as it enhances collaboration between the University of Nairobi and other Chinese higher learning institutions.

"It also links academia with Chinese corporate institutions in Kenya," he added.

In addition to officials from the Chinese embassy in Kenya, representatives from Chinese enterprises such as Oppo Electronics Corp were also present for the opening ceremony.

The competitors, who included some who sang and played Chinese instruments and others who performed kung fu, were judged on their proficiency and confidence.

This year's winner was Elvis Patrick Njau from the Confucius Institute at Egerton University in Nakuru, which is about 140 kilometers northwest of Nairobi.

He will go on to compete in the world finals in China, as well as receive an all-expenses-paid tour of the country and a six-month scholarship to a college in China.


( China Daily Africa Weekly 05/22/2015 page3)

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