By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, on December 5th, 2023 played host to a momentous event, the 2023 Chinese Ambassador Scholarship Awards Ceremony, an auspicious gathering that was graced by the presence of important dignitaries, including His Excellency Wang Qing, the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Hon. Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurie, the Minister of Technical and Higher Education, the representative of the Scholarship Awardees and the Media. The occasion marked a significant step forward in the educational partnership between China and Sierra Leone.
Ambassador Wang Qing’s in his keynote speech started by welcoming all to the event, further congratulating all the awardees and their families maintaining that he thinks of all of them, their schools saying he is proud of them.
He underscored the pivotal role of education in societal progress, drawing from China’s own remarkable journey towards economic advancement. The Ambassador highlighted how education had been instrumental in lifting millions out of poverty and driving sustainable development, reflecting on China’s achievement of its poverty alleviation goal and the UN Sustainable Development Goals a decade ahead of schedule.
“I can say Education played a pivotal role in bringing about this unprecedented miracle,” he underscored referencing DENG Xiaoping, whom he said orchestrated the reforms and opening-up a policy which pinpointed that China will not become a modernized country just by talking about a grand vision but must cultivate the necessary expertise and talent to make that vision a reality.
He intimated how DENG Xiaoping’s vision of building a powerful China was grounded in efforts to develop education and build technological prowess was enshrined as a national strategy, which ensured that respect for knowledge and talent was mainstreamed in succeeding development programs adding how today China is home to the world’s largest educational sector.
Emphasizing the depth of collaboration, Ambassador Wang Qing highlighted China’s substantial investment in Sierra Leone’s educational landscape.
He revealed how over two decades, more than 1,200 Sierra Leonean students benefited from Chinese scholarships, while diverse training programs in areas like agriculture, management, and sports reached over 5,100 individuals.
According to him, this year over 800 Sierra Leoneans have been invited to China for training programs and seminars on agriculture, aquatic, SMEs, management, sports and etc saying the total number is the second highest on the African continent.
Ambassador Wang Qing also spotlighted the establishment of educational hubs like the Confucius Institute and agricultural technology demonstration centers, illustrating China’s commitment to enhancing educational infrastructure in Sierra Leone.
He said The Chinese Ambassador Scholarship Program is an important initiative aiming to provide support for outstanding students with good academic performance and a love for Chinese culture, and to pass on and promote the traditional friendship between China and Sierra Leone saying the scholarship program started in 2015, and has been held for 8 consecutive years, with a total of about 200 students receiving the award, which help to inspire the enthusiasm of Sierra Leonean students for learning, promoted the friendship between China and Sierra Leone.
He mentioned the great achievement Sierra Leone had made in Education during the last several years pointing out how His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio made “Free Quality Education” the flagship program of the New Direction Agenda in his first term.
The Ambassador said they believe that Education will continue to play a significant role and give a strong impetus to the realization of President Bio’s Big Five Game Changers in his second term, namely Feed Salone, Human Capital Development, Youth Employment Scheme, Revamping the Public Service Architecture, Tech and Infrastructure stressing how all of these need more support from capacity-building, from skilled talent, and of course, need more quality education.
He concluded that, “Young people are the cream of the nation” adding that for every country all over the world, youth are the hope and the future.
The Chinese Ambassador said : “For you as the top ones among the young generation of Sierra Leone, the responsibility upon your shoulder is to create a better future for your country. Please cherish your opportunities and study hard to use your knowledge to make Sierra Leone more prosperous and a better homeland. You are also the future of China-Sierra Leone bilateral friendship and I hope you can contribute more to promote the friendship between China and Sierra Leone to a higher level.”
On her part, the Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Hon. Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurie, commended the enduring educational collaboration between both nations and reflected on past scholarship ceremonies and bilateral initiatives acknowledging their profound impact.
She said under the esteem leadership of Ambassador Wang Qing , all are witnessing another Chinese Ambassador Scholarship awarding ceremony with 30 deserving awardees from higher education institutions.
“On behalf of His Excellency President Bio, I express profound thanks and appreciation to Your Excellency MR Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Sierra Leone, and the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone for your unwavering support towards human capital development in Sierra Leone, a key development agenda for the Government,” she expressed gratitude.
The Minister said she is optimistic that the bilateral relationship between the two countries will continue to flourish, and urged the beneficiaries to utilize the opportunities presented to them wisely, recognizing the privilege that others may not have.
“Use this opportunity to excel academically and contribute to our nation’s progress,” she admonished assuring how the Ministry is here to support them further encouraging them to embrace the responsibility in order to give back to their communities and contribute to the nation’s development wishing them a successful academic journey.
The event concluded with a shared vision of nurturing lasting friendship and mutual respect between Sierra Leone and China, rooted in the pursuit of educational advancement and socio-economic progress.
The ceremony resonated deeply on the profound impact of education in shaping destinies, nurturing talent, and fortifying the groundwork for a brighter, more prosperous future for both nations.