John Baimba Sesay
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 July 2014
This follows fruitful discussions held recently in Beijing, between representatives of the University of Sierra Leone and the Confucius Institute of the People’s Republic of China.
This was disclosed to His Excellency Victor Bockarie Foh, Ambassador of Sierra Leone to the People’s Republic of China on Thursday, July 9, during a briefing session with a cross section of a delegation from the University of Sierra Leone.
They were on a working visit to Beijing on the invitation of the Confucius Institute of China.
Experiences were shared following the teaching of a range of subjects by the Chinese Confucius Institute at Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone in 2012.
Established in Sierra Leone two years ago, the Confucius Institute is seen as a “symbol of China-Sierra Leone friendship, furthering the development of cultural exchanges between the two countries.”
This initiative would facilitate, fast track and strengthen cultural understanding between the peoples of China and Sierra Leone.
It is a follow-up measure of the Forum of China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Fifth Ministerial Conference, which is aimed at promoting cultural exchanges and cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and all African countries, and in this case, deepening, widening and strengthening of China-Sierra Leone relations.
Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh was briefed by Mrs. Bernadette Cole who is a Senior Lecturer of the Mass Communication Department in Fourah Bay College. She is also Acting Director of the Alumni and International Relations Directorate, University of Sierra Leone.
She disclosed that about 1000 students are currently taking courses in the Chinese language in Sierra Leone.
Mrs. Cole said that there has been a great interest amongst Sierra Leonean students to learn Chinese language and culture. “The Sierra Leone example has been a huge success story.”
Sierra Leone, she said, acknowledges the importance of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese language in the international arena today.
Mrs. Bernadette Cole also briefed Ambassador Foh about the pending Annual University Awards ceremony, which is held every December to decorate meritorious and deserving students of exemplary performance in various areas of academic performance.
She called on Ambassador Foh, himself an alumnus of Fourah Bay College and other alumni at the Beijing Mission to identify with and support the University. She invited all alumni to attend the coming Awards ceremony in December this year.
Responding, His Excellency Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh thanked Mrs. Bernadette Cole and her team for visiting the Embassy despite their very busy schedule in China.
On the issue of establishment of a Regional Office in Sierra Leone for the Confucius Institute, Ambassador Foh said, he was “happy that Fourah Bay College has taken that decision and is going in that direction” and “as a product of Fourah Bay College with Registration No. 4012, I am very proud of my University, equally proud of Mrs. Cole with whom I was together at Fourah Bay and I feel humbled in pride to be associated with this success story I have just been told.”
Ambassador Foh dilated on the value the Chinese people attach to their culture, language, customs and traditions, “something they have preserved over the years.” The setting up of a Confucius Institute at Fourah Bay College, he said “is something we welcome and appreciate as an Embassy.”
He encouraged the delegation to do their utmost to establish strong and cordial relationship with Gannan Normal University, and see how they could facilitate exchange visits between Gannan and the University of Sierra Leone. “Whatever we could do as an Embassy to facilitate the process, I encourage you to feel free to contact us, as we know that China has a lot to offer.”
Ambassador Foh used the briefing session to thank the Chinese Government for all the support it is giving to Sierra Leone.
He however encouraged the delegation to also see how Sierra Leonean culture, values, customs and traditions could be properly articulated and exported to the People’s Republic of China, so as to continue the process of strengthening the ties between the two Republics and more especially in the areas of language and cultural exchange.
Ambassador Foh also used the meeting to commend the role that Mrs. Bernadette Cole continues to play in Sierra Leone’s democratic process, especially her role during her tenure as Head of the country’s media regulatory body – the Independent Media Commission. “She was fearless, yet fair and a woman of great courage and substance.”
On the pending University Awards ceremony in December this year, as an Alumnus of the University, the Ambassador promised to support and to handle production and shipment of plaques to Sierra Leone.
“This is a way of supporting the University and I look at such gesture as payback time”, he said, and committed himself to attend this year’s event.
Ambassador Foh used the occasion to appeal to the delegation and all Sierra Leoneans to join President Ernest Bai Koroma in his efforts to fight the Ebola disease that is currently plaguing our beloved country and Sub-Region.
He also informed them about the initial assistance from the government of the People’s Republic of China to the government and people of Sierra Leone to fight the Ebola
The establishment of the Confucius Institute in Sierra Leone would surely promote Sierra Leonean’s understanding of Chinese culture and language. Its principal portfolio is the promotion of Chinese language and cultural exchanges between the two countries.
The Institute is jointly managed by the Gannan Normal University of Ganzhou Municipality, in the People’s Republic of China and the University of Sierra Leone.
Also present at the briefing session was the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mrs. Kumba. Alice Momoh.
The delegation from the University of Sierra Leone included Mrs. Z Domingo – Deputy Registrar of Fourah Bay College; Professor Liu Hande – the Director of the Confucius Institute – University of Sierra Leone; Samuel O. Weekes; and Mr. Kenneth Osho. The delegation has since returned to Sierra Leone.