Officials and educators from China and African countries have applauded the role of Confucius Institutes, engaged in Chinese culture and language teaching abroad, in enhancing understanding and friendship between peoples of different countries.
"The Confucius Institute is a bridge connecting peoples," said George Magoha, vice-chancellor of Kenya's University of Nairobi, on Tuesday. "These institutes are helping more African people learn more about China."
At the opening of the Conference on African Confucius Institutes Development in Beijing, Magoha shared his experience with counterparts from other African universities and 15 cooperating Chinese colleges.
He said the Confucius Institute in the University of Nairobi held events such as photo exhibitions on the May 12 earthquake in southwest China and lectures on the Beijing Olympics.
The Confucius Institutes are playing a unique role in promoting exchange and knowledge between each other while meeting the need of African people to learn Chinese language, he said.
Ten of the 21 planned Confucius Institutes in 13 African countries have already opened. They are jointly run by African and Chinese colleges with support from the Chinese government.
"We have given full support to the African side in establishing the institutes and improving teaching," Chinese Minister of Education Zhou Ji told the conference.
The Chinese government had allocated more than 3 million U.S. dollars to help establish institutes in Africa. They employed more than 20 language teachers and had about 30,000 textbooks, publications, audio and video programs.
"Confucius Institutes in Africa are a joint effort of both Africa and China to boost mutual understanding and friendly relations," Zhou said.
Xu Lin, director of the Office of Chinese Language Council International, said the institutes in Africa offer various language courses and cultural activities to African students.
About 2,000 students had taken their 60 language courses in the past four years. Almost 10,000 people had attended more than 100 lectures, exhibitions and performances on Chinese history, culture, trade and economy.
"With the help of language and culture, the geographical distance between us has been shortened," said Xu.
The African delegates will discuss with their Chinese counterparts the management of Confucius Institutes, Chinese teacher recruitment, training of local teachers and cooperation among institutes across Africa.
They will visit the cooperating Chinese colleges after the two-day conference.
China began to set up Confucius Institutes abroad in 2004. To date, 271 Confucius Institutes have been founded in 77 countries and regions. About 100,000 people have attended courses and more than 1 million have participated in their events, according to the Ministry of Education.
(Xinhua News Agency October 8, 2008)