Building Bridges and Crossing Cultural Boundaries - Confucius at home in Africa



The Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University (CISU) has made significant strides in developing its teaching and cultural activities at Stellenbosch University and beyond. Ms Fu’ai Jian, Director of CISU provides an update of all things Chinese at SU over the last year.

One of the core functions of the Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University (CISU) is teaching Chinese language to Stellenbosch University students, local school children and the public at large.   Since the establishment of the Confucius Institute at SU in 2007, 14 teaching sites have been set up which are scattered across the Winelands region around Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Wellington and Worcester. More than 1 200 students have registered for the Chinese language classes thus far which saw a year-on-year rise of 26, 3 per cent in enrolments.  The CISU has a dedicated Confucius Classroom at Rietenbosch Primary School in Stellenbosch and at the newest CISU teaching site in Worcester, about 80 kilometres from Stellenbosch; Chinese language has been added to the formal teaching system as an elective course.  Plans are also underway to establish two additional Confucius Classrooms in 2016.

The courses offered by CISU include credit-bearing courses for bachelor’s degree and honour’s degree students at SU, but also non-credit bearing courses for primary and high school students, as well as university employees and business people. CISU’s approach to teaching Chinese language includes a selection of classic textbooks relevant for university students, adult learners, as well as recognised textbooks for primary and high school students. Furthermore, CISU designs their own teaching materials for students, and takes full advantage of digital media to enhance the learning experience. The number of teaching hours varies according to learning levels, with credit-bearing courses ranging from five sessions per week for primary level students to ten sessions per week for Honour’s degree students.   The non-credit bearing courses are usually offered over one or two sessions per week. 

In addition to the language courses offered, CISU offers Chinese meditative exercise classes, specifically Tai Chi /Ba Duan Jin which aims to grow the students’ interest in the Chinese culture.

Furthermore, in efforts to enhance the local understanding of Chinese culture, CISU presented 35 cultural events during 2015 including the celebration of Chinese festivals such as the Spring Festival, the Lantern Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Other initiatives to promote the Chinese culture include hosting the “Chinese Culture Corner” which allows students to discover Chinese cuisine; exhibitions of Chinese artworks jointly organised by CISU and the Stellenbosch University Museum, as well as participation in the PGIO’s International Week events.

Other CISU cultural and academic events include hosting the Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) Art Troupe from Nanjing Technical University and organising the International Health Care Seminar and dissertations on Traditional Chinese Medicine at Stellenbosch University.

The CISU has also been in involved in initiatives promoting student mobility between South Africa and China. One such initiative is the Hanban Chinese Bridge contest which is an annual competition held among Confucius Institutes across South Africa for university students.  Every year students from Stellenbosch University participate in the competition and 2015, marked the sixth consecutive win for Stellenbosch University students.   Four SU students majoring in Chinese language participated and attained two first prize positions and one third prize position in the various competition categories. Additionally, CISU also participated in the 2015 “Chinese Bridge” Summer Camp for South African students which allowed three  honour’s students to visit Xiamen University (two students) and Beijing Language and Culture University (one student ), respectively on a semester exchange programme. In November 2015, 10 students from the department of Modern Foreign Languages also visited Xiamen University to participate in a winter camp. Similarly, two students majoring in Chinese language also won scholarships from the Chinese Government and plan to study at Xiamen University and Renmin University, China.

Through the wide variety of activities and events,  the Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University have over the years successfully contributed to creating a deeper understanding of China among  Stellenbosch University staff , students and the public at large.    The innovative programmes and activities offered by the CISU has been effective in attracting and boosting local interest in China, its language, cuisine and culture.