Tours of­fer up cul­ture first­hand Young­sters gain new per­spec­tives about peo­ple in China and Africa

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By AL­PHA DAFFAE SENKPENI

Four­teen-year-old Li Yux­uan be­came fas­ci­nated with Africa and Africans af­ter spend­ing five days with for­eign stu­dents on a sum­mer study tour in Bei­jing.

Li was part of a Grade 7 class from the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion that vis­ited his­toric sites and mu­se­ums in the cap­i­tal. He had al­ways been shy to talk to for­eign­ers.

“I thought for­eign­ers were un­friendly and it would be em­bar­rass­ing for me to say hello if they didn’t an­swer,” Li said.

But his ac­quain­tance with a Liberian stu­dent from China Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity in Bei­jing im­pressed Li.

“Joseph al­ways an­swers me warmly when­ever I greet him, and we talk a lot about his coun­try and Africa,” he said.

Joseph Toumed, 31, an as­sis­tant in­struc­tor at the sum­mer camp, taught the young stu­dents about Africa.

“Be­ing with them helps them to know Africa, es­pe­cially my coun­try Liberia,” he said. “They haven’t heard about Liberia. Most of them don’t know Africa or its cul­ture. So I have been with them ex­plain­ing about the beauty of Africa and the peo­ple — how friendly and warm we are.”

The African stu­dents are from Chad, Zim­babwe, Congo, Liberia, Zam­bia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

In Novem­ber, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and 10 other gov­ern­ment agen­cies is­sued a circular en­cour­ag­ing pri­mary and mid­dle schools to or­ga­nize study tours for stu­dents.

“Study tours are an im­por­tant way to im­prove ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion re­form. It com­bines study with trips and also ef­fec­tively strings to­gether school ed­u­ca­tion and ex­ten­sion ed­u­ca­tion, cul­ti­vat­ing a sense of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, the spirit of in­no­va­tion and prac­ti­cal abil­ity,” the state­ment said.

He Wen­ping, a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute of West Asian and African Stud­ies of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, says it’s a good way to boost mu­tual un­der­stand­ing.

“As most Chi­nese young stu­dents don’t have the op­por­tu­nity to travel to Africa, hav­ing African stu­dents as their tour guides or sum­mer camp men­tors could help them know more about the re­mote con­ti­nent,” she said.

“From the per­spec­tive of the African stu­dents, it’s a chance to get some part-time in­come while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Chi­nese cul­ture first­hand and get­ting to know what Chi­nese young peo­ple are think­ing about.”

Twenty-six-year old Nigerian stu­dent Ra­heem O. Aminu of China Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity also worked with the stu­dents. He said the camp helps in­te­grate Chi­nese and African cul­tures, pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to cor­rect stu­dents’ per­cep­tions to­ward Africans, and helps im­prove their in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with for­eign­ers.

“It’s an av­enue for the kids to start hav­ing the right and proper ori­en­ta­tion about Africa, and also a means for us to sell our im­age to them, to let them know a lot of things about Africa,” said Aminu.

“I un­der­stand their per­cep­tions of Africa, be­cause most of th­ese stu­dents had neg­a­tive stereo­types that Africans are poor and bad,” Joseph said.

Teach­ers on the tour said the in­ter­ac­tions have given the young Chi­nese a glimpse of Africa.

“I think the com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­change of cul­ture is very im­por­tant for my stu­dents and helps im­prove friend­ship be­tween Chi­nese and Africans,” said Guo Yanghong, a fe­male teacher.

Her col­league, Cui Lei, added, “The tour im­proves the stu­dents’ abil­ity to speak English or other lan­guages and learn some­thing about African cul­ture.”

The African stu­dents want more in­ter­ac­tions with th­ese stu­dents to help them bet­ter un­der­stand Africa.

“If this starts from the mid­dle school level and stu­dents grow up con­tin­u­ously be­ing ex­posed to Africans it will also im­prove the peo­ple-topeo­ple re­la­tion­ship be­tween Chi­nese peo­ple and Africans,” Joseph said.

It’s an av­enue for the kids to start hav­ing the right and proper ori­en­ta­tion about Africa.” Ra­heem O. Aminu, Nigerian stu­dent at China Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity

Al­pha Daffae Senkpeni is a jour­nal­ist with Fron­tPage Africa, based in Liberia, who is vis­it­ing China Daily as part of a 10-month China-Africa Press Cen­tre fel­low­ship.

Cheng Si and Jiang Chen­g­long con­trib­uted to this story.

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