“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace”, Confucius.
Living in a world filled with a myriad of socio-economic challenges, there is an ardent need for a well-educated populace and deepened bilateral and multi-lateral relationships among countries. These are prerequisites to global confidence and a guarantee for the hope for sustainable global peace, without which development is a façade.
Knowing the indispensability of education (Higher Education in particular), academics and higher education institutions are paramount in the realization of a “community of shared future for mankind”, promulgated by His Excellency Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China. Man is a social being and as such needs to relate with other social beings to build a progressive society. Like man, institutions and nations equally need collaborators and partners for their advancement. President Xi recognized that diversity is inherent in civilizations of the world. No civilization is more superior than others as each civilization has its profound heritage and unique charm. “Diversity of human civilizations not only defines our world, but also drives progress of mankind,” said President Xi. Civilizational exchange and mutual learning promote harmony, bond and mutual respect that will help in building an open and inclusive world.
When I took up the role of Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia in October, 2016, a key policy goal was to maintain and establish new partnerships with institutions around the world in an effort to position the university as a modern center of excellence for higher education in Africa.
With this in mind, I paid a courtesy call on the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Banjul to discuss a wide range of possible areas of collaboration with institutions in the People’s Republic of China. This is because this global giant has really advanced in Science and Technology which had to be boosted at the University of The Gambia. This visit was the switch that sparked the beginning of a strong bond between the University of the Gambia and the Chinese universities.
Emanating from this cherished partnership was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of a Confucius Institute at the University of The Gambia. Following two of my visits to China and His Excellency Adama Barrow’s state visit to the same country, the two Heads of State, H.E Adama Barrow and H.E Xi Jinping, propelled by their ardent desire for a China-Africa relation, signed the MoU in 2018, with Guizhou University being the partner institution.
Guizhou University (GZU) was officially established in 1902 and was first known as Guizhou Institute of Higher Learning. The name “Guizhou University” was formally adopted in October 1950. The University offers a wide range of courses for 12 major disciplines such as literature, history, philosophy, science, engineering, agronomy, medicine, economics, management, law, education, and art. GZU has 40 colleges, with 33,604 full-time undergraduate students and 12,433 graduate students. It is home to 3,938 faculty members, including 2,856 full-time teachers. Of these, 503 are professors and 979 are associate professors. A total of 968 teachers hold doctoral degrees and 978 master’s degrees. GZU, committed to international exchanges and collaborative education, has established long-standing relationships for exchanges and cooperation with more than 150 universities or research institutions across more than 40 countries and regions. It has been approved to be the International Education Aid Base by the China Ministry of Education (MOE), International Science & Technology Cooperation Base under the Ministry of Science and Technology, the institution offering Chinese Government Scholarship, and the institution offering Confucius Institute Scholarship. GZU has two Confucius Institutes, one co-built with the Presbyterian College in the United States, and the other co-founded with the University of The Gambia. The UTG has significantly benefitted from supports rendered by the Guizhou University in the areas of scholarships for capacity building both in short and long term trainings.
The Confucius Institute was inaugurated by the Vice President of The Republic of The Gambia, Her Excellency Dr. Isatou Touray in October, 2019 at the UTG Kanifing Campus. An amount of fifty thousand US Dollar ($50,000) was provided for the establishment of a laboratory and a classroom. The Institute is now up and running and providing lectures for people on the Chinese language and culture. It has further ushered in a chapter in the cultural and educational exchanges between the beautiful peoples of The Gambia and People’s Republic of China. This is a milestone in global peace efforts and I am glad to have been part of the process.
As part of this cooperation, a team of professors from Guizhou University visited UTG and conducted a training for staff and students on the “Use of Modern Agricultural Tools and Practices.” Most recently, we worked closely with UNESCO-ICHEI to establish a smart classroom and a laboratory for the enhancement of the Sciences.
From experience in scholarship, it can be affirmed that global peace can be attained through the establishment of closer ties between academic institutions across the world. The UTG is better equipped to provide quality education to its students today than at any time in its history. The Government of the People’s Republic of China and their Embassy in The Gambia have played a significant role in assisting us reposition the UTG to its present pedestal.
Prof. Faqir Muhammad Anjum
University of The Gambia