By Manzie Vincent Doh
BEIJING— (September 20—M4Relay) — In 1950, China received the first group of 33 students from the Eastern European countries. Since China initiated her reform and opening-up policy in 1978, international students’ education has entered into a new stage. From 1979 to 1999, the total number of international students studying in China reached 342,000. China has been successful in maintaining social and political stability and the rapid growth of economy. This in return gives rise to the number of international students who chose China as an international study destination. In 1996, the total number of international students reached 41,000, an increase of 30 % over 1992. Furthermore, the enrolment of self-financed students grew drastically and has surpassed that of scholarship students.
By the end of 2000, the total number of international students in China had increased to 407,000. The students were from more than 160 different countries. Among them, Chinese Government Scholarship students numbered 88,000, whereas self-financed students reached 317,000. Since 1997, the Chinese Scholarships Council (CSC) has been entrusted by the Ministry of Education with the enrolment and administration of daily operations concerning international students in China sponsored by Chinese Government Scholarships.
As China marks 60 years of successfully internationalizing its education system, thousands of foreign students today will be grateful for the rare opportunities offered them by the Government of China to study fulltime in some of the best universities in the country.
Francis Antto Qamara from Tanzania recently finished his graduate studies from Tsinghua University in Beijing, obtaining an International Master’s degree in Public Administration. He came to China last year under a full scholarship from the Government of the People’s Republic of China.
“The government of China has reshaped my destiny by offering me a rare opportunity to study in one of the best universities in the world. My life will never be the same again,” Qamara said.
Qamara praised the international cooperation between his country – Tanzania, and China, attributing his academic successes to the friendly ties the government of China sustains with Tanzania.
“I came from a low income family and I could never dream of studying in a classic environment like China, but thanks to the friendly relations between my country and China, I can today boast of an international master’s degree which I know will go a long way in helping me achieve my career goals,” he said.
Qamara’s studies in China will not only be a ‘dream come true’ to him and members of his family, but will help advance good governance in Tanzania.
“I will promote good governance in Tanzania and be an expert in policy formulation, evaluation and implementation,” he said.
“The knowledge gained from my studies in China has completely transformed me into a resource person in capacity building,” Qamara added.
The Tanzanian Graduate lauded the government of China for implementing excellent reforms in China’s educational system. “The government of China plays an indispensable role in the world by reshaping the lives of thousands of African, European, American, Australian and Asian students to achieve great academic successes, and enable students from low income background to meet their academic and career gaols,” he said.
He suggested that African countries should concentrate and strengthen their bilateral relations with China for a secured economic growth and political stability.
“Africa in my opinion will largely benefit from China’s unique model of development which has raised China to the second largest economy in the World – an economy that was not hard hit by the global financial crisis, compared to other countries.” he said.
Qamara, who hoped to return to China soon, said that his perception of China has largely improved. He said “China is a very stable and citizen-centred nation, ready to provide good life for its people as well as to foreigners.”
He recalled that during his studies in China, he found a place he could call home.
“The Chinese are wonderful people, so friendly, always ready to help out strangers who lost their way in the streets, especially Africans,” he said.
He added that it was very easy for him to make friends with the Chinese students and quickly adapted to the Chinese cuisine which he said, “has been a source of inspiration during my studies, because whenever I ate at the Chinese restaurants, I felt invigorated and refreshed, and this gave me the push to study very hard at Tsinghua University.”
He further recalled one great experience he had in China during the winter season.
“It was so exciting for me to walk kilometres on real white snow. The whiteness was thrilling and I took so many pictures with my legs dipped in snow as I joined my Chinese friends in making snow balls,” Qamara said.
Qamara returned to Tanzania to pick up with his job at the Dar El Sallam University.
Like Qamara, thousands of African students have seen their lives transformed by the Government of China, who every year, according to China Scholarship Council (CSC) figures, grants over 2000 scholarships to students from all parts of Africa – North, South, East, West and the Central African regions.
More African students will be benefiting from the largess of the government of China as it is estimated by the CSC that in 2010, the number of African students who can access scholarships could rise to at least 4000.
What started in 1950, as a group of thirty-three foreign students from Eastern European countries; and later in 1956 as four foreign students from Egypt in Africa, hosted by China, has grown to dramatic heights. Sixty years later, China can definitely celebrate its successes in attracting more and more international students from all parts of the world including the United States which currently is the third country with the highest number of foreign students in China, after South Korea and Japan.
Meanwhile, it is clear that Africa, in the nearest future, will see a new breed of an intellectual class who got their destiny reshaped and received life-time transformation in their academic and career pursuits thanks to the traditional friendship and relations of good cooperation between China and Africa.
Boosted by the principles of sincere friendship, equality, solidarity and cooperation, common development and being oriented to the future, the Sino-African cooperation could remain an eye-opener to the rest of the world.