The Confucius Institute at Makerere University was officially inaugurated on Friday, 19th December, 2014 at a colourful ceremony presided over by the State Minister in the Office of the Vice President, Hon. Vincent Nyanzi. The inauguration was preceded by a seminar on Uganda-Chinese relations, featuring presentations by the Director of Office of Development and Planning at Xiangtan University, Prof. Liao Xiangyang, the Deputy Dean, School of Literature and Communication at Xiangtan University, Prof, Wang Jiequn, the Director of the Confucius Institute at Makerere University, Prof. Oswald Ndoleriire and Assoc. Prof. Phillip Kasaija from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University.
Established with support from the Chinese government and Xiangtan University, the non-profit public institution will offer credit courses in Chinese to Makerere University students, and short courses to staff and the general public interested in learning Chinese for all purposes. It will also be a centre for promoting cultural and business ties between the people of Uganda and China. The Institute is hosted in the former Vice Chancellor’s house located at Garden Hill Road, Plot No. 149.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Uganda, H.E. Zhao Yali, described the launch of the Institute as the best Christmas gift to Ugandans. He said the Institute would further enhance cooperation between Uganda and China. “With the growing relations between the two countries, more and more Ugandans are visiting and studying in China, and many Chinese choose Uganda as their travel and investment destination. The demand for learning Chinese and understanding Chinese culture among Ugandans has increased in the recent years. The Confucius Institute at Makerere University will provide a great platform for local Ugandans to better understand Chinese language and culture,” he said.
The Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President, Hon. Vincent Nyanzi, emphasised the need for Ugandans to study the Chinese language and culture. “With the strong business ties between Ugandan and China, there is need to learn the Chinese language for easier communication. Ugandans should therefore embrace this opportunity of the newly established Confucius Institute to learn the language,” he advised.
In his remarks, the Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. George Mondo Kagonyera, hailed the strengthened cooperation between the China and Uganda in various sectors including education and business. He said through technology, the world has become more connected and Ugandans can no longer afford to live in isolation, especially from countries like China that have influenced events on the global stage.
“The rest of the world cannot afford to do without China. The Confucius Institute therefore offers an opportunity to Ugandans to learn more about China. Hope it will not only focus on teaching language but also the work quality and ethical values of the Chinese people,” he said.
The Chancellor pledged support to the activities of the institute noting that Makerere University has been turned into a dynamic intellectual powerhouse and the launch of the institute was a deliberate effort to further achieve this goal.
He thanked Ambassador Zhao Yali for his efforts in establishing the Institute and for the continued support to Makerere University.
The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu, expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for choosing Makerere University to host the Confucius Institute in Uganda. “The establishment of the Confucius Institute at Makerere University is indeed an important milestone in the history of cooperation between Uganda and China. May I use this opportunity to thank the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Uganda and Xiangtan University for the strong financial and material support rendered towards the establishment of the Institute. You did not only facilitate the application process and signing of agreements for setting it up, you supported the renovation of the house where it is hosted, and also sent us teachers and a consignment of teaching materials,” he said. The Vice Chancellor also thanked the Government of Uganda for exempting Makerere from paying taxes for some of the equipment imported for the Institute.
The President of Xiangtan University Board, Prof. Zhang Jing, said the establishment of Confucius Institute at Makerere University was a fruit born out of the genuine cooperation between the two Universities since 2010. He said the two universities had made frequent and profound academic exchanges, thus bringing out fruitful cooperation programmes. “In the last few years, we have implemented programs of staff exchange, student exchange and co-research in the field of environmental engineering, energy, chemical engineering, international law and Chinese language, which not only helps to promote mutual understanding and development of each other, but also helps to turn the staff and students of the two universities from strangers to close friends. With our joint effort, we are welcoming the most important achievement of our cooperation, the new-born Confucius Institute at Makerere University. The Institute will not only play an important role to promote Chinese language and culture, but also serve as a window to introduce Ugandan culture and civilization to the Chinese people,” he explained.
During the ceremony, Mr. Chu Maoming, Counsellor, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Uganda, read a letter from Madame Xu Lin, Chief Executive of the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing congratulating Ugandans upon the “landmark achievement”.
The inaugural ceremony was graced by among others the Acting Chief Justice of Uganda, His Lordship Steven Kavuma.
The guests were treated to colourful performances by Chinese and Ugandan Cultural group, Heritage Roots. The seminar on Uganda-Chinese relations was moderated by the Principal of CHUSS, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira, whereas the Master of Ceremony was MUASA Chair, Dr Mohammed Kiggundu.
Named after Confucius, the Institute not only symbolizes the distinctive Chinese culture, but also has the responsibility on enhancing cultural exchanges and people-to-people friendship. Since 2004, 471 Confucius Institutes and 730 Confucius Classrooms have been established around world, with a total of more than 1 million students. The first Confucius Institute in Africa was established in Nairobi, Kenya in 2005. 42 Confucius Institutes had been established in 29 African countries by October, 2014. Confucius Institutes have become an important bridge for African people to learn Chinese language and culture.