TCM gives African stu­dents a healthy am­bi­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By ME­LANIE PETERS

Two stu­dents from Africa mix some pun­gent herbs, one lot to re­pel mos­qui­toes and the other to ease anx­i­ety. They are among a group of Chi­nese stu­dents learn­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine at one of the coun­try’s top uni­ver­si­ties.

Vanessa Nji­fack, 21, from Cameroon, is a first-year stu­dent study­ing at Nan­jing Univer­sity of Chi­nese Medicine. Badrah Said Ali, 26, from Mada­gas­car, is a third-year stu­dent at the univer­sity, which has 1,500 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents among its 20,000-strong stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. They are two of three African stu­dents awarded schol­ar­ships to study at the univer­sity.

Nji­fack says back home peo­ple “think Chi­nese medicine is witch­craft”.

She hopes to change that per­cep­tion when she re­turns to open her own prac­tice.

“Chi­nese medicine is so spe­cial. It has many ben­e­fits and helps Chi­nese peo­ple live long healthy lives,” says Nji­fack.

She wants to spe­cial­ize in acupunc­ture, which she con­sid­ers very ef­fec­tive.

Ali first wit­nessed the ben­e­fits of tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine from a rel­a­tive back home. “My un­cle has a prac­tice. He used acupunc­ture to help a cousin who was strug­gling to have baby. More peo­ple are en­joy­ing the ben­e­fits of tra­di­tional medicine. It’s less in­va­sive than Western medicine and doesn’t in­volve strong drugs with harm­ful side ef­fects.”

Both women had to learn Man­darin as their stud­ies are taught in Chi­nese. Nji­fack and Ali have risen to the chal­lenge of study­ing medicine in a for­eign lan­guage, although Ali ad­mits the work­load of for­eign stu­dents is dou­ble that of Chi­nese stu­dents, as they of­ten have to trans­late cer­tain sub­jects into English af­ter school so that they can gain a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing.

Among other things, the univer­sity teaches acupunc­ture, Chi­nese herbal medicine, cup­ping ther­apy and mas­sage.

De­grees range from four years for a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in medicine to nine years for a PhD. The univer­sity also of­fers de­grees in phar­ma­col­ogy, ap­plied psy­chol­ogy and op­tom­e­try.

Stu­dents do their prac­ti­cals at Jiangsu Pro­vin­cial Hos­pi­tal of In­te­grated Chi­nese and Western Medicine in Nan­jing, which has close to 1,000 beds and treats 700,000 out­pa­tients a year.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Ed­u­ca­tion News and Re­views, more than 700,000 stu­dents presently study TCM in China, of those 5,510 are for­eign­ers.

Since 2012, fol­low­ing the first China-Africa In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum on Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine and Phar­macy in Cape Town, South Africa, there has been greater col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Chi­nese and African prac­ti­tion­ers.

More stu­dents from Africa are also com­ing to China to learn tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine as an al­ter­na­tive to Western medicine.

Ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­niz­ers of the fo­rum, there are more than 1,000 stu­dents from Africa who have stud­ied tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine in China and some of them have been con­ferred master’s de­grees.

China’s global in­te­gra­tion has led to its uni­ver­si­ties open­ing their doors to an in­creas­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates, stu­dents from Africa ac­count for more than 1 in 10 stu­dents study­ing abroad. Pre­vi­ously their uni­ver­si­ties of choice were in the United King­dom, France and the United States.

How­ever, in re­cent years that has changed as Sino-African ties have strength­ened.

Ac­cord­ing to China’s Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, the growth rate of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents has seen a strik­ing 35 per­cent an­nual in­crease on av­er­age. Be­tween 2005 and 2015, the de­part­ment re­ported that the num­ber of African stu­dents in China rose from 2,757 to about 50,000.

Sta­tis­tics show China’s phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ex­ports to South Africa, Morocco, Benin and Nige­ria are ris­ing.

South Africa al­ready has a tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine mar­ket that is com­par­a­tively well-de­vel­oped.

In 2000, the South African gov­ern­ment went through the leg­isla­tive process to rec­og­nize sup­ple­men­tary medicine, in­clud­ing acupunc­ture. In Au­gust 2002, the gov­ern­ment re­quired that all herbal prod­ucts be regis­tered be­fore en­ter­ing the South African mar­ket.

At the fo­rum Ibrahim Mah­moud, pres­i­dent of the South African Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine and Acupunc­ture As­so­ci­a­tion, said that tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine had a promis­ing fu­ture in the coun­try. He be­lieved that through joint ef­forts with the Chi­nese TCM prac­ti­tion­ers, more Africans would un­der­stand, rec­og­nize and ac­cept Chi­nese medicine.

The au­thor is an on­line edi­tor of South African news­pa­per Week­end Ar­gus.


Badrah Said Ali, 26, from Mada­gas­car, is one of the African stu­dents awarded schol­ar­ships at Nan­jing Univer­sity of Chi­nese Medicine.

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