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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Confucius Institute (CI), in partnership with Fujian Foreign Affairs Office, hosted the 10th anniversary celebrations of the DUT CI at the Coastlands Musgrave Hotel in Durban on Tuesday, 19 September 2023.

This celebration was attended by the His Excellency Mr Zhao Long, Governor of Fujian Province, Prof Wang Jiannen, Chairman of DUT’s sister university, the Fujian Agricultural and Forestry University (FAFU) and other senior officials from the Fujian provincial government, accompanied by the Chinese Consul-General in Durban, His Excellency Mr Li Zhigong. The prestigious event commenced with a visit to the DUT CI offices and language laboratory at the ML Sultan campus and concluded with festivities at the Coastlands Musgrave Hotel.

Facilitating both the campus visit and the celebratory event was Mr Alan Khan, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at DUT. Mr Khan, who also visited China as a guest of the Confucius Institute a few years ago, was able to briefly converse in Chinese, expressing DUT’s gratitude to Mr Zhao and his delegation for gracing the celebratory event.

The DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, welcomed Mr Zhao and the Chinese delegation to the ML Sultan campus where the DUT CI offices are situated. The Fujian Provincial Governor and his senior officials were first taken to the DUT CI offices and then, to the language laboratory, to meet with DUT students who are currently learning Mandarin at DUT. This was the same group who had written a letter to Chinese President Xi Jingping. It was President Xi, who in March 2013, alongside former President Jacob Zuma, co-witnessed the signing ceremony between FAFU and DUT, that resulted in the establishment of the Confucius Institute.

Mr Zhao congratulated the DUT students for having the courage to write a letter to President Xi Jingping and for managing to get a reply from him in August 2023. He confirmed that President Xi Jingping replied to the faculty and students of the DUT CI, where he encouraged them to continue to learn the Chinese language and to contribute to carrying forward the China-South Africa friendship, thereby promoting the friendly cooperation between the two countries. After engaging with the students, he then proceeded to the DUT Council Chamber where the Governor and his delegation held a brief meeting with Prof Mthembu on the two agreements that they were going to sign at Coastlands Musgrave Hotel.

Mr Zhao extended an invitation to the 50 students from DUT, who wrote the letter to President Xi Jingping, to visit China. He believed that it would be a great opportunity for them to see and learn about the Chinese culture. He reiterated that seeing is believing and it was always better to talk about what you have seen and have knowledge of. Upon hearing the exciting news, the Mandarin students were ecstatic and could not wait to start their preparations for the visit to China.

Prof Mthembu gave a warm welcome to Mr Zhao and the senior officials accompanying him. He indicated that DUT took their visit seriously for three reasons. Firstly, he indicated that South Africa was of the first places that President Xi Jingping visited when he was appointed at the President of China in 2013. Secondly, Prof Mthembu said President Xi Jingping gave his blessing on the establishment of the DUT CI and lastly, Mr Zhao’s presence at the 10th anniversary proves the significance of the DUT CI. The Vice-Chancellor also commended President Xi Jingping for making time in his busy schedule to reply to the letter written by DUT students, indicating that this makes DUT feel very special. Prof Mthembu said this visit was a start for great and meaningful collaborative initiatives.

Director of the DUT Confucius Institute, Mr Frank Wu Lin shared the 10-year journey of the DUT CI. He confirmed that since its establishment in 2013, the DUT CI had offered various types of Chinese language and cultural courses to nearly 10000 registered learners. Currently, the DUT CI has gradually evolved into an influential Chinese language teaching centre in Durban and an important cooperative platform for various fields, which are not only limited to education and culture.

“In December 2020, the Chinese International Education Foundation officially approved the application of the DUT CI to become a global model Confucius Institute, with a focus on the “Chinese+” vocational skills and technical training centre. This model Confucius Institute at DUT opens an exciting chapter of Innovation and Vocational Training. As the Global Model Confucius Institute, the DUT CI has become a pioneering one-stop service centre for language teaching, cultural experience and providing technology, innovation and entrepreneurship support. It will enable Chinese language learners to make full use of the knowledge they have learnt, to make a difference and eventually contribute to the cultural exchanges between China and South Africa and towards local economic development,” added Mr Wu.

At Coastlands Musgrave Hotel, Prof Mthembu and Prof Wang signed two agreements, first being the renewal agreement for the DUT CI, which will continue to be joint collaboration between the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU) and DUT. The second agreement was a Strategic Cooperation Agreement between FAFU, DUT and the Xiamen BRICS Partnership on the New Industrial Revolution Innovation Centre. The signing ceremony was held under the witness of the Governor of Fujian Province, His Excellency Mr Zhao Long and the Chinese Consul-General in Durban, His Excellency Mr Li Zhigong.

Other than the signing ceremony of two agreements, the DUT Confucius Institute also unveiled the plaque of the newly established DUT CI “Chinese+” Vocational Skill Training Centre and SA Smart JUNCAO Technology Platform.

Importantly, the DUT CI also launched the first Chinese Learning Dictionary in isiZulu.

Guests were treated to an exhibition of the DUT CI’s 10-year journey and enjoyed performances from DUT and FAFU students.

Pictured: Chinese Consul-General in Durban, His Excellency Mr Li Zhigong, Chairman of DUT’s sister university Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU), Prof Wang Jiannan, DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, Deputy Mayor of Xiamen, Mr Zhuang Rongliang and the Governor of Fujian Province, His Honorable Mr Zhao Long at the Signing Ceremony.

Simangele Zuma

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