Dr. Pedzisai Mashiri, dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Zimbabwe, has ordered about 100 T-shirts printed with the logo of the Confucius Institute (CI), a Chinese language-teaching institution launched one year ago.
"The students and staff members of the institute will wear them to let more people know the institute so that they can come to study Chinese or give help to the institute," said Mashiri, who is also director of the CI affiliated with the university.
The CI is part of an expanding family of over 200 Confucius Institutes established worldwide under the auspices of the Office of the Chinese Language Council International.
"The CI is only one-year-old now, but it appears as if it has been in place for five years, because we have achieved a lot," Mashiri told Xinhua.
A total of 241 people in Zimbabwe, including President Robert Mugabe's wife and two children, have learned Chinese language and culture in the institute over the past year.
From September 2007, the University of Zimbabwe offered Chinese language and cultural studies as a Bachelor of Arts subject.
"It has proved to be very popular with undergraduate students," he said.
Most of the people who register to study Chinese for the non-degree program are indigenous business people and journalists, according to the director.
With the government's emphasis on the "Look East" policy that promotes and encourages bilateral relations and trade with China, more and more organizations and companies and individuals seek an understanding of China, its language, culture and its people, he said.
The 24-year-old Monica Makumbe, who is a clothes wholesaler, has taken six trips to China.
Having learned Chinese for only one week in the CI, she said this will help her do more business with Chinese.
Danai Chikomo said he is learning Chinese because he wants to go to China to teach Chinese people English so that Chinese people can communicate with other peoples.
To mark the anniversary of CI, a delegation led by Professor Ji Baocheng, president of Renmin University of China, which is partner of the University of Zimbabwe in running the CI, will visit the institute on April 14 and will give a lecture entitled " The Chinese economic revolution: Lessons for Zimbabwe."
"We will invite more Chinese experts or Chinese in Zimbabwe who are experts in various aspects of China to give lectures to help the public understand and appreciate the Chinese culture," said Mashiri.
The CI will hold a Chinese speech contest and provide a cookery course in cooperation with a local Chinese restaurant later this year.
He said the CI is also considering to send teachers to other cities to provide short-term intensive Chinese-language programs.
The long-term goal of the CI is "engage government to include Chinese in the teachers' college curriculum in order to facilitate the training of local Chinese teachers. The envisaged net effect is to have the teaching and learning of Chinese cascade from University level to primary school level," Mashiri said.
(Xinhua News Agency March 28, 2008)