The Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University (CISU) recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary.
The Institute is a non-profit public institution that aims to promote Chinese language and culture. Following the successes of Germany, France, Spain, and the UK to promote their national languages, China decided in 2004 to do the same by establishing Confucius Institutes with offices all over the globe. The headquarters are in Beijing.
CISU has been located in Stellenbosch University International (SUI) since 2007 and offers non-credit-bearing courses to SU students and staff and schools in and around Stellenbosch in partnership with the Xiamen University.
The anniversary celebrations, which took place at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) on 8 November, drew guests from the Chinese Consulate in Cape Town, the Chinese Embassy, Confucius Institutes from across South Africa and Africa, SU students and staff, as well as teachers from participating schools.
Robert Kotze, Senior Director of SUI and South African Co-Director of CISU, said the 15-year anniversary is testament not only to SU's commitment to internationalisation but also to its efforts to bring internationalisation to the community.
“CISU contributes a lot to extra-mural programmes at the schools in the community and through that we bring international experience to the learners at the different schools. The Institute also contributes to and supports collaboration at an academic level. My focus is to make a difference in the lives of students and staff and through the Institute I can do just that."
He said future plans for CISU include increasing their staff complement in order to reach more schools, to host more in-person cultural events and to attract more visiting arts and cultural influence from China.
Prof Huang Binlan, Chinese Co-Director of CISU, said: “During the past 15 years we've had good interaction with students on the SU campus and learners from the schools in the community and they have greatly benefitted from our cultural programmes."
Tang Chang'an, Acting Consul General of the Chinese Consulate in Cape Town, congratulated CISU for its role in promoting Chinese teaching, cultural activities and people-to-people communication between China and South Africa.
“Expressing cultural exchanges is an important means to promote mutual understanding and to enhance feelings between the two countries. In this regard I believe that CISU and all the Confucius Institutes will play a big role."
The celebrations also featured the inaugural Ambassador's Award for the best CISU essay. The award went to BA (international studies) student Samantha Cox. The contest required participants to write essays that strengthen the friendship between South Africa and China, increase South African youth's understanding of China's recent development and promote South Africa-China people-to-people exchanges.
Cox's essay focused on poverty alleviation, exploring China's successful efforts in this regard and comparing it to what South Africa is doing in that space. It also focused on what South Africa can learn from China's poverty alleviation efforts and how a partnership can be mutually beneficial.
“It's huge!" she said of the award. “My journey with Chinese started three years ago. What was initially an accidental choice, became such a huge part of my life and I could not have imagined the past three years without Chinese as a language and a culture. I've learnt so much from both my teachers and my studies. To see that rewarded in such a tangible way means the world to me."
First prize went to Lola Meyer and Elizabeth Visser, while Cassandra Barker and Gosego Dibate scooped second prize. Third prize was shared by Tomo Daiber, Cole Baker, Du Toit van der Merwe and Kgothatso Martin Mkabela.
The Ambassador Award will be up for grabs in 2023 once more.
(Photo: Delegates attending celebration)