The Confucius Institute at the University of Botswana (CIUB) turned ten years old this year. It is part of the first batch of 282 institutes and classrooms that were established throughout the world by the Chinese government in 2009. To date there are 520 such in the world. The aim was to promote the Confucius philosophy through partnerships between the Chinese Higher education and those of other countries.
Confucius is the name of a Chinese philosopher and educator who lived more than 2 500 years ago. His social philosophy has and still remains central to the Chinese people. He did not only believe in peace but also believed in promoting it and mutual understanding through language in that if people of the world understood each other culture and language then there would be harmony, peace, respect and less conflicts and confrontations in the world.
Speaking at the 10th Anniversary Celebrations at the UB Conference Centre on November 25, 2019, Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, said starting from a humble beginning of 81 students in session one, level one, a total of 8500 students have gone through CIUB to date.
Professor Norris was delivering the speech on behalf of the Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Douglas Letsholathebe.
He said of the number, 111 have finished all the levels at CIUB and they could strike simple conversations with the Chinese people. Some have obtained scholarships to study for higher degrees in China, he added.
Professor Norris noted that besides the growing numbers, CIUB as an outreach programme had also extended its mandate to the public with the working class making most of its clientele. The Chinese language lessons are also extended to targeted groups such as police officers, immigration officials, court interpreters, bank tellers, labour officials, private sector and the public at large, he observed.
The Vice Chancellor highlighted that CIUB boasted several teaching sites in and around Gaborone such as rainbow High School, Legae English Medium Primary School and in the recent past Maruapula and Westwood private schools.
Through UB, said Professor Norris, the Chinese language was now taught for credit and non-credit courses at Botswana International University of science and Technology. It is also taught in UB branches of the Centre for Continuing Education in Francistown and Okavango Research Institute in Maun.
Professor Norris said in the next five years, CIUB planned to have its teaching sites in all Botswana’s major towns.
On the importance of learning the Chinese language, Professor Norris underscored the fact that China was an emerging economic giant and was projected to become the biggest economy in the world in the near future.
“It is therefore, important to learn the Chinese language so that we can understand the Chinese better and perhaps even understand how they economically came to where they are today,” noted Professor Norris.
In addition he said such would enable Batswana to deal and relate with the Chinese on an equal footing.
Therefore, he said given the situation, CIUB’s role was to promote mutual understanding between Batswana and the Chinese. “It is a bridge upon which the people of the two countries can promote mutual interest, forge business relations, research collaborations, staff and student exchanges as well as establishment of bilateral relations between the two countries,” he added.
Just like Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, Professor Norris said it was hoped that Botswana too would consider the need for the introduction of the Chinese language as one of the optional languages offered in public schools.
During the event, about 30 graduates received their certificates in different levels. There were also cultural performances which continued in the evening at Westwood private school.