The Confucius Institute at Makerere University celebrated its first Anniversary on 15th December, 2015 at a colourful ceremony held in the University Main Hall. The Institute was launched on 19th December 2014 to promote the teaching of Chinese language and Culture in Uganda. Since its inauguration, the Institute has registered a number of achievements. It has opened up branches in various institutions in Uganda to offer courses to the general public interested in learning Chinese. A total of 700 students including staff and members of the general public have completed various levels of learning Chinese. The students have not only learnt the language but also acquainted themselves with the culture of the Chinese people.
Prior to the celebrations, a delegation from Xiangtan University led by their President, Huang Yunqing, paid a courtesy call to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), the official host of the Confucius Institute at Makerere University. The delegation held a meeting with the CHUSS Management team to explore further avenues of collaboration between Makerere and Xiangtan University. The meeting was chaired by the Principal of CHUSS, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira and attended by the Deputy Principal, Prof. Abasi Kiyimba, the Dean, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi; the Dean School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni and the Directors of the Confucius Institute, Prof. Oswald Ndoleriire and Prof. Hong Yonghong.
Prof. Kirumira appreciated the support rendered to the Confucius Institute by Xiangtan University. Xiangtan University with support from the Confucius Institute Headquarters Hanban sent a Director and eight teachers to Makerere University. The Principal informed the meeting that the College was moving towards interdisciplinarity and strengthening research capacities. He called for more support and collaboration in areas of research and staff/student exchanges. “We want to explore possibilities of doing joint research. We can also develop joint PhD research programmes. Additionally, we want to engage in more staff/student exchange programmes where our students spend some time at Xiangtan University and the Chinese students come to Makerere. With that exposure, students will be in better position to deal with global issues,” he explained.
After the meeting, the delegation moved to the Confucius Institute to witness the opening of a new classroom block donated by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Uganda.
At exactly 5:00pm, invited guests converged in the Main Hall for the Anniversary celebrations. The function was presided over by Uganda’s State Minister for Science and Technology, Hon. Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa, and attended by among others the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, H.E Zhao Yali.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, in a speech read by Hon. Prof. Tickodri-Togboa said the Confucius Institute was a symbol of the close ties and cooperation between Uganda and the People’s Republic of China. He congratulated the Directors of the Institute and associates for the exceptional achievements realized in its first year of service in Uganda. “It is amazing that in such a short time, your name is well known all over Uganda and that you have started solving the long time problem of communication and language barrier which has for quite some time hindered the economic progress of Ugandans doing business in China,” he said.
The Minister reiterated government’s commitment to including the Chinese language as one of the foreign languages to be studied by students in secondary schools once the new curriculum is rolled out in 2017. “This will be a significant boost to the work of the Confucius Institute in Uganda where we shall see it prepare and produce employees ready to benefit from the presence of the different Chinese investments in Uganda,” he said.
He appreciated the support from other members of the Chinese community in Uganda especially the business, communication and construction industry. Chinese investment in Uganda is currently worth US$596m creating employment opportunities for more than 28,000 Ugandans. The total amount invested in bilateral trade alone is worth US$400mn.
Speaking at the occasion, Ambassador Zhao Yali applauded Makerere University for the significant developments made, specifically the renovation of the Main Hall. “I am pleased to see the Main Hall looking very beautiful and well furnished. I want to appreciate the Makerere University Administration for their efforts in improving infrastructure at this institution,” he said. He said Confucius Institute had made significant progress in its first year of service. “Prior to the establishment of the Institute, Uganda could not send representatives to participate in the Annual Chinese Competition. I am happy to note that Uganda is now able to send about 18 students to participate in the competition,” he said. He re-echoed the fact that the Confucius Institute is a good platform for Ugandans to learn Chinese language, culture, history and way of thinking.
In a speech presented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, Assoc. Prof. Okello Ogwang, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu, appreciated President, Huang Yunqing for sparing time to personally grace the anniversary celebrations. He expressed gratitude for the support rendered by Xiangtan University to Makerere especially through capacity building programmes that include student/staff exchange and training programmes at different levels. “Makerere University Strategic Plan specifies Internationalisation as a major crosscutting issue that impacts the activities of the Institution. It recognises that the provision of higher education today is global in nature. We therefore deliberately integrate international aspects into our core functions of teaching and learning, research and innovations as well as knowledge transfer partnerships and networking. It is upon this basis that we are strongly invested in our current partnership with Xiangtan University and the People’s Republic of China to further strengthen the teaching of Chinese language and culture at Makerere University,” he said.
He further appreciated the financial and material support rendered by the government of the People’s Republic of China to the Confucius Institute. He also congratulated the Directors of the Confucius Institute for the achievements realised thus far. Prof. Ddumba-Ssentamu said Makerere University would avail space for expansion of the Confucius Institute to cater for the increasing number of Ugandans interested in studying Chinese.
The guests were treated to various Ugandan and Chinese cultural performances by Uganda Heritage Roots, the students of the Confucius Institute, pupils of Aghakhani Primary School and Chinese Cultural groups.