In the 2019 Chinese Bridge Competition held in KwaZulu-Natal at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Confucius Institute on the of 3rd of May, the UJCI’s students got the first and third prize. Ilse Smit, 21-year old Accounting student (registered for HSK IV), got first prize, and 23-year old Chemistry student Shannon René Bennett attained third prize. This made the UJCI the only Confucius Institute to win 2 prizes from the total 5 prizes in the offering as there are 5 Confucius Institutes in the country.
The aim behind the formation of the bridge competition some two decades ago was to create a platform for South African students to learn Mandarin and to demonstrate their understanding and proficiency of the language, as well as their knowledge of Chinese history, culture and geography amongst others. As such, the competitions are split into three sections, including a paper test, a speech test and a talent show in which the students, in a short space of time, must perfectly execute their newly gained expertise on all things Chinese better than their counterparts do.
UJCI Co-Directors, Dr David Monyae and Professor Peng Yi expressed their pride in the students and the UJ Mandarin teaching staff. Prof Peng also congratulated the teachers, Mr Hongzhe Li, Ms Chenxi Zhang, Mr Tao Feng, Ms Kun Zhang and other Mandarin Teaching Staff at UJCI, stating that this victory belonged to them as much as it did the students. UJ Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation, Professor Saurabh Sinha congratulated the students and greeted the development as “excellent news.” “This comes as welcome news for the UJCI, which has maintained its position once again,” said Dr Monyae, alluding to the fact that the first prize-winner of the 2018 and the 2017 competition were also UJCI students. Other UJCI students who participated in the Chinese Bridge Competition were Ms. Mandisa Siphumelele Mbundu, Ms Edith Farisayi Msimango, and Mr José São João who were given honorary awards for their excellent efforts.
UJCI will also be sending a number of its students to China this June as part of its Summer Camp programme meant to foster not just a book understanding of China, but also a physical sense and mingling with the actual country and its people. This also comes against the recent conferring of an honorary doctorate upon President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) as well as 25 postgraduate scholarships.
Dr Monyae stated that the Bridge Competition and the Summer Camp programme are part of the same effort to heighten mutual cross-cultural understanding between Chinese and Africans. “More than the volumes and volumes of trade which we have seen grow and continue to grow over the years, the most significant symbol of connection between our two civilisations are the people-to-people synergies,” he says.
Where to from here for these achievers? The UJCI students will form a delegation to China to take part in the final competition with competitors from all over the world made possible with sponsorship from Hanban. The students are excited at the opportunity to showcase their knowledge of Mandarin, and at the opportunity to meet fellow enthusiasts and to learn more about China. From a Hanban-sponsored scholarship, the first prize winner will also have the opportunity to study Chinese in China if she wishes to continue with her studies.