During a recent virtual event hosted from Beijing, China, Robert Kotze, senior director of Stellenbosch University (SU) International, was awarded a long-service medal in recognition of his involvement in supporting the work of the Confucius Institute at SU (CISU) for more than a decade. CISU not only conducts extracurricular Chinese training at SU itself, but at schools and institutions in the broader Boland region as well.
Kotze, who serves as the local CISU director, was one of 75 directors worldwide to receive this recognition. His fellow recipients included peers from other African universities in Egypt, Madagascar, Kenya and Rwanda, among others.
The event was hosted by the Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF), an international NGO that recently took over the coordination of programmes that promote the Chinese language and culture throughout the world. The initiative sees Chinese universities provide teaching, personnel resources and operational funding to more than a thousand Confucius institutes or classrooms worldwide.
In his keynote address, CIEF president Prof Yang Wei thanked medal recipients for the way in which they had been supporting Chinese teaching and learning at their respective institutions. Short videos were also shown to highlight the endeavours of various Confucius institutes.
CISU was established in 2007. Kotze thanked SU's Chinese partner institution, Xiamen University, for their ongoing support since inception, as well as for the honour of having served alongside five enthusiastic and committed Chinese co-directors at SU during this time. Prof Binlan Huang is the current Chinese co-director at CISU.
First established at SU's Centre for Chinese Studies, CISU moved to SU International in 2009. It provides non-credit-bearing language training at different proficiency levels to SU students as well as members of the broader Stellenbosch community, as well as opportunities to learn more about the Chinese culture. “The main mission is to accommodate people who are interested and willing to learn the Chinese language and understand the culture," Kotze explains.
CISU also coordinates a range of enrichment programmes at 14 schools in and around Stellenbosch and elsewhere in the Boland, such as Kylemore Secondary and Worcester Gymnasium. “I believe CISU's contribution is meaningful and opens up new worlds to the learners," Kotze says. “It has also allowed the University to forge relationships with these local schools."
In addition, its involvement with the Confucius Institute has enabled SU to strengthen its academic network in China. Over the years, the University has facilitated many summer and winter camps for learners and students, as well as the compulsory semester exchange to China for Chinese Language honours students as part of their graduate programme. “The Confucius Institute's work is grounded in broader academic collaborations to ensure that links between universities remain rooted in their respective scientific endeavours."
His work with the Confucius Institute has also been beneficial from a personal growth perspective, Kotze says. “It has given me many opportunities to visit China and learn more about various aspects of Chinese culture and history. Apart from training and capacity-building opportunities, the programmes always include rich cultural activities. Going to Beijing is always a special experience, and my visits to Zhangjiajie and the Terracotta Soldiers in Xi'an are also lifelong memories."
- For more information about the Confucius Institute at SU, visit www.sun.ac.za/cisu.