The Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury opened a Confucius Classroom at South Otago High School, in the South Otago region on Monday 19 September.
The opening ceremony was held in the SOHS school auditorium. People present included the Mayor of Clutha District Bryan Cadogan, the Chinese Consul-General to Christchurch JIN Zhijian, the Director of Schools at the Ministry of Education Julie Anderson, the Principal of South Otago High School Mike Wright and the Director of CIUC Adam Lam. More than 400 people attended, including principals, staff and students from local schools.
The guests were first welcomed by the school’s kapa haka group with a special powhiri and traditional performance.
After that, South Otago principal Mike Wright gave a welcome speech, saying that the opening of the Confucius Classroom was a step forward in the collaboration between CIUC and SOHS for promoting Chinese language learning and awareness of Chinese culture in the wider community of the Clutha district. He said that, in addition to English and Maori, students can now choose Mandarin as a second language which is an invaluable opportunity for their future.
Consul-General JIN Zhijian described the benefits of learning Mandarin in his speech:
“China has now become the largest trading partner of New Zealand, the largest source of overseas students as well as the second largest tourist group; therefore, by learning Mandarin, you can gain an advantage for your future career development.”
He also added that it was more than just about learning the language and culture, as there was also an opportunity to help encourage people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
CIUC Director Adam Lam said that the level of Chinese learning was an impressive achievement that for a small town of 4,000 residents. CIUC bases three volunteer teachers in the region and all the local schools have initiated a Chinese programme. He also expressed his hope that in the future students have the opportunity to tour China and help NZ to establish a prosperous future by helping in the development of greater economic and trade relationships between the two countries.
The Mayor Bryan Cadogan congratulated on the opening of the Confucius Classroom. He said that the Clutha District has become a multi-cultural community and Clutha and Shanghai have already collaborated in the farming industry, which shows the importance of learning Chinese and understanding the Chinese culture. At the end of his speech, he stressed that the world is a bigger place now and that the younger generation should be prepared and concluded his speech with “Don’t be left behind!”
After the VIP speeches, two students from Rosebank Primary School shared their Chinese learning experience with the audience. Despite the fact that they have studied Chinese for just over one year, their good pronunciation and fluency in Chinese impressed the audience.
Liam Whitmore, a graduate from SOHS attended the ceremony and said he was excited to see that more and more young children now have the opportunity to learn Mandarin. He participated in the “Chinese Cultural Camp” in 2015 and after that he was fortunate in receiving a CI scholarship which enabled him to study Chinese for one semester at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology. His dream now is to go back to China to study music at a Chinese university.
As part of the celebration, SOHS held various cultural activities for the local students to experience a taste of Chinese culture. Students took part in a kung fu class and studied a traditional Chinese dance; they also learnt how to cook dumplings with dipping sauce and how to use chopsticks as well as trying other Chinese arts and crafts.
The Confucius Classroom at South Otago High School is the first Confucius Classroom in the South Otago region and the seventh opened by the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury.