THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF
CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE-UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST
OPENING SPEECH BY
PROF. K. OPOKU-AGYEMANG
DIRECTOR, CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE
THEME: GHANA-CHINA IN HARMONY
Chinese Ambassador H.E. Madam Sun Baohung
Honorable Minister of State
Special Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Dear Faculty, Students and Staff
All Protocol Observed:
Welcome to Confucius Institute at UCC
Welcome to our First Anniversary Celebration
As a way to welcome you, please allow me to say a few words about our Confucius Institutes generally, and the meaning of today’s event. Confucius Institute has become a worldwide phenomenon. Conceived as a modest non-profit public educational outfit thirteen years ago in 2004 by the Chinese government, Confucius Institutes have multiplied the world over, and there have been vast new developments and achievements.
Only two weeks ago, my co-Director and I were the guests of the Confucius Institute at the University of Zambia, in the capital, Lusaka. The occasion was the 2017 Joint Conference of Confucius Institutes in Africa. There, we found that the Ministry of General Education in Zambia has recently given approval to the Curriculum Development Center in Lusaka for the introduction of Chinese Language Syllabus at both the Junior and Senior Secondary School levels. This means that today in all of Zambia Chinese language instruction is embedded at all the levels in secondary schools. All school-going children from Grades 8 to 12 learn Chinese. You can imagine the alacrity with which I grabbed copies of the syllabus! And I am sure you will agree with me that there is an important lesson of policy here that we in Ghana can profitably study.
Let me share a few of the figures I have garnered: Last year alone six million fresh candidates took the Chinese Proficiency Tests at all levels; and in that same year 84 new Confucius Institutes at universities, and Confucius Classrooms in primary and secondary schools were established. Sixty-seven countries including Italy, Tanzania, and Romania all have Chinese Language teaching in their national education system. Across the world, on five continents, 410 universities have absorbed Confucius Institute courses into their
credit systems. Not to be left behind, the British government has recently launched its ‘Mandarin Excellence Program’ that grants 10 million Pounds Sterling to Chinese language teaching in primary and secondary schools in the UK. In Kenya the University of Nairobi offers programs in Chinese language and culture up to the Ph.D. level.
And in the United States, the Governors of the states of Utah and Delaware have jointly declared in a policy statement that young Americans should be given the opportunity to develop basic skills in Chinese. With the number of new learners at 2.1 million, Confucius Institute has become the most comprehensive, inclusive and influential language and cultural community in the world today.
As Madam Liu Yandong, the Vice Premier of PR China, and Chair of Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters declared in her Keynote Address at the 11th Confucius Institute Conference in December 2016: ‘It’s self-evident that Confucius Institutes have fuelled the global “Chinese learning fervor”, and helped more and more people to experience … Chinese language and culture’.
It was with great pride and a well-earned sense of achievement, therefore, that we opened Confucius Institute at University of Cape Coast in June of 2016. As a university we knew we were beginning a glorious journey, in the company of some of the best and oldest universities in the world. Today, one year on, we celebrate that achievement. And we are so happy to have all of you join us. Thank you, Your Excellency the Ambassador of China; thank you Honorable Minister of State; thank you Special Guests, Provosts, Deans, Headteachers, Faculty, Staff and Students; thank you everybody.
It is axiomatic that when cultures retreat and close themselves off to the rest of the world, they wither and die. But when they choose to harmonize with other cultures, they flourish and endure. The free and fair exchange of heritage and hope is the life-blood of all cultures. Ghana has always stepped forward, unafraid to mix and march with the world, despite its size. As Her Excellency The Chinese Ambassador rightly pointed out in a speech here at UCC last year: “The number of Ghanaian professionals trained in China ranks third among African countries”.
As our theme today suggests, we dearly seek to find harmony between our two peoples, Ghana and China: a common ground that harmonizes our own system and that of China into a new intellectual, cultural and economic whole that will be profitable for both of us. Our emerging understanding of China is paralleled by a new and closer Chinese understanding of Africa. This can only be for the good.
Still, we need to think deeply, carefully and clearly about this new relationship. It is up to us to leverage the intellectual diversity Confucius Institute makes available to us so that our eyes and ears remain open both to the expansive new opportunities as well as the threats of ancient stereotypes that can be fought only with the open exchange of ideas. If we remain the vigilant students of culture that we are, then we stand to extend the frontiers of knowledge and development for the lasting benefit of all our peoples.
Confucius Institute at University of Cape Coast is here to lead our students to confront and celebrate this new and ancient and different culture, China. As is well known, to learn a new language is to open yourself to a whole new world; you enter into an open exchange of ideas; you test old verities against new ideas; you commit to the pursuit and discovery of the heart of the new language. And you grow thereby, firm and round and free. The perennial paradox underlining all cultural exchange is that the more we study others, the better we come to understand ourselves. Thus, the sweetest part of all of this is that the more deeply you learn the new language, the more you learn about yourself, and therefore the better you understand who you are, and can be.
In 2008 when we first conceived of Confucius Institute as a viable project here at UCC, the world at large was very different from what we know today. At that time, almost a decade ago, China was a rising world power on the verge of becoming Africa’s biggest trading partner. Today it is all that, and more, without question. At the time we called our world’s shifting shape ‘globalization’. Today’s world is rather different. Globalization seems in retreat. Only last night, in a major about-turn, the United States decided to pull out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement. And yet, this is precisely the time, when there is so much uncertainty, so much inchoate threats to peace, so much rampant bloodshed, that peoples all over the world need most to expand the scope of dialogue, and finger the grains of hope.
If we have called you here today it is to respectfully invite you to celebrate with us this most important occasion in the life of Confucius Institute at UCC. It is a time of renewal in the spirit of oneness, when all of us join together in a community of relatives, friends, mates and colleagues to exchange ideas, greetings, wishes, gifts and blessings. This is a time of joy, and also of reflection. And it is as good a time as any to address the ruling challenges of our day.
Welcome to the Maiden Anniversary of Confucius Institute at University of Cape Coast. Thank you all very much for coming.