Feature: Chinese language, culture attract Kenyan youth amid huge prospects
NAIROBI, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Ivy Gakuru's captivating stage presence and sophisticated elegance were on display on Thursday afternoon when she joined her peers to perform a Chinese classical dance at the United States International University's (USIU-Africa) auditorium in Kenya.
The 20-year-old international relations major in one of Kenya's oldest private universities stood out in the crowd given her confidence, stylish attire and mastery of a time-honored Chinese dancing genre.
Gakuru is currently studying the Chinese language as a minor but has developed a strong affinity to music and dance from the Asian country, given their therapeutic value.
"The Chinese classical dance strikes me as both entertaining and very therapeutic hence I resolve to practice continuously and excel in it as I undertake mandarin lessons," Gakuru told Xinhua after the launch of Confucius's classroom at USIU Africa.
Her peers, who also settled for free-flowing and elegant attire during the Chinese classical dance performance, lived up to the billing while earning plaudits from the audience comprising diplomats, faculty members and students.
Gakuru said that her brief stint as a Chinese language minor at USIU-Africa has boosted her appreciation of the rich culture from the Asian country and its people.
"At least now I am able to interact freely with Chinese nationals living in Kenya now that I am gradually becoming adept at communicating in Mandarin," said Gakuru.
"It is my desire to pursue Chinese language up to advanced levels even as I nurse the ambition of becoming a diplomat sometimes in the future," she added.
Gakuru belongs to a growing army of Kenyan youth who regard mandarin as their favorite foreign language given its potential to open a floodgate of rewarding careers.
Simon Biar, a 26-year-old international business management major at USIU-Africa, is determined to excel in spoken and written Chinese language and place him at a vantage position amid globalization of the labor force.
The son of South Sudanese immigrants, who has lived in Kenya since the age of 14, had earlier electrified the audience with a martial art performance that he considers a worthy extra-curriculum activity.
"My interest in Chinese culture developed during my childhood when I used to spend many hours watching Chinese movies. Our tutors also encouraged me to study Mandarin and I cannot regret the benefits it has brought to my academic life," said Biar.
He vowed to refine his skills in martial arts despite a hectic school calendar given its many positive attributes like improved physical, mental and emotional health.
"On a given day, I yearn to spare some time and practice martial arts which offer some therapy given the heavy workload in school. More importantly, I believe martial arts has opened my eyes to the other side of the Chinese culture," said Biar.
He aspires to pursue post-graduate studies in China and utilize the knowledge acquired in the Asian country to promote development across the eastern African region.
The launch of a Confucius classroom at USIU-Africa was billed as a milestone in efforts to promote learning of Chinese language and culture to a critical mass of Kenyan youth.
Paul Zeleza, USIU-Africa vice-chancellor, said the inaugural Confucius classroom in a Kenyan private university is expected to open new opportunities to young learners.
"We expect to see more scholarships coming in the way of our students. Faculty exchanges and summer camps will also trickle in to benefit the students," said Zeleza.
Nelly Maina, a 21-year-old finance major who is currently pursuing a Chinese language basic proficiency course agreed that the Confucius classroom will be a game-changer in her journey towards self-actualization.
"The launch of the Confucius classroom is a giant step forward to those of us keen to become thoroughly proficient in the Chinese language. It is the language of the future and holds great potential in terms of careers and entrepreneurship," said Maina.
She has also developed a keen interest in classical Chinese dance that she considers an embodiment of the Asian country's rich culture.
Wangari Macharia, a 26-year-old computer science major at USIU Africa who has been studying the Chinese language since 2018, said she was confident it would position her for rewarding opportunities in the near future.
"I look forward to getting a scholarship and advance my Chinese language course to a level where I can communicate with ease to a diverse audience," said Macharia, adding that skilled and helpful tutors have boosted her aptitude in mandarin.
Wanjiku wa Mbugua, a Chinese language lecturer at USIU-Africa said it has benefitted many students in terms of scholarships and job openings.
"Last year, 25 students visited China and another batch went there for a summer camp. These students are now fluent in Chinese and are excelling in other disciplines," said Wanjiku.