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Award-winning Confucius Institute first in world to have local lecturers

The University of Zimbabwe Confucius Institute is set to become the only one in the world with local lecturers, at a time when it has received an award for being the best in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Speaking at the award ceremony this month, Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Lin Lin said the Confucius Institute in the capital Harare started in 2006 with only 30 students but now has 700. He added that it was helping to spread Chinese culture.

The origins of the Confucius Institute can be traced to President Robert Mugabe’s ‘Look East’ policy, adopted after Western countries slapped sanctions on him and his inner circle in the wake of bloody 2002 presidential elections.

Since then Western countries have denied study visas to the children of Mugabe’s ‘lieutenants’, with Australia going as far as expelling those already studying there.

China has filled the gap and it, together with Russia, opposed further sanctions at the United Nations, thereby thwarting actions that could have seen Mugabe toppled in the same manner as Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

As a result, Mugabe sees the Asian giant as an all-weather friend and these good relations have seen the Confucius Institute thrive, with even Mugabe’s wife, Grace, learning the Chinese language.

The Chinese award, though only announced at the University of Zimbabwe this month, was received in December at the annual international Confucius Institute conference held in Beijing.

“The award was recognition for outstanding performance in teaching the Chinese language and culture, training local Chinese teachers, promoting student exchange etc,” read a statement released at the Zimbabwe ceremony.

“There were more than 400 Confucius Institutes from more than 100 universities attending the conference of 2,100 delegates from all over the world.

“From the African region, only the Confucius Institute at the University of Zimbabwe and the Confucius Institute at Suez Canal University received this highly esteemed and coveted award.”

Further, the statement said, the Zimbabwean institute was the only one in the world that by July this year would have seven local lecturers with formal training in teaching Chinese as a foreign language, after obtaining masters in teaching Chinese from Chinese universities. The seven lecturers were granted scholarships by the Chinese government.

The university also said it had received a commendation from the Chinese government for having completed its first five-year plan and having formulated another plan from 2012-16 that will, among other things, guarantee teaching and lay the foundation for the cascading of teaching of the Chinese language from primary school to university.

Grace Mugabe plans to introduce Chinese at a primary school that she founded and which opened its doors this month. In 2007, the First Lady enrolled at the People's University of China to learn the Chinese language. Later she took advantage of the Confucius Institute and had professors sent to her home to teach her.
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