China's education support fuels dreams of Afghan students

Updated: Apr 23, 2024 Xinhua Print
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TAIYUAN/KABUL -- As one walks through the bustling streets of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, it's impossible to miss the prevalence of billboards promoting foreign language schools, particularly highlighting Chinese language courses.

However, just a decade ago, as recounted by local residents, there was minimal interest in learning Chinese, the language spoken by their neighboring country.

Today, a growing number of Afghan youths harbor aspirations to pursue education in China, acknowledging the high academic standards of Chinese universities. In contrast, earlier preferred destinations for higher education often included countries like India or Türkiye, said Heela, a resident of Kabul.

The young Afghan woman graduated as a Chinese major student in 2017 under a Confucius Institution program, a collaboration between Kabul University in Afghanistan and Taiyuan University of Technology in north China's Shanxi Province.

"Every visit to China felt like a homecoming, as I have many friends and good memories there," said Heela, who is now preparing herself for her life in Beijing as a doctoral student at Peking University.

After a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this Confucius Institute program is now back in operation, as 12 Afghan students arrived at the Chinese university in March with scholarships funded by China.

Since its inception in early 2008, the Confucius Institute at Kabul University has been instrumental in nurturing a cohort of Chinese language professionals, many of whom are actively involved in bolstering cooperation between China and Afghanistan across various sectors, including education and commerce.

"As of April 2024, the Confucius Institute at Kabul University has admitted a total of 739 students," said Wei Guoqiang, the Chinese director of the institute.

Additionally, approximately 5,600 Afghan learners have participated in short-term training courses conducted by the institute, as well as its affiliated Chinese language centers scattered throughout Afghanistan.

One such beneficiary, Farzad Farhad, who completed the program in 2020, ventured into entrepreneurship alongside fellow international students in south China's Guangdong Province. Their startup aims to facilitate smoother trade interactions between Chinese and Afghan merchants.

"The high quality of numerous goods manufactured in China, often surpassing international standards, remains unrecognized by a considerable segment of global consumers. This presents a lucrative business opportunity," Farhad said.

He traverses manufacturing hubs in Zhejiang, Guangdong and other regions of China, exporting electronic products while leveraging e-commerce platforms. By providing comprehensive product demonstrations through videos, he aims to elucidate the functionalities and merits of each item to potential customers.

Within a short span, Farhad has garnered the attention of over 20 Chinese enterprises and amassed a following of more than one million social media subscribers.

Inspired by success stories like Farhad's, an increasing number of Afghan youths are now eager to seize opportunities offered by the Chinese market, thus driving up the demand for Chinese language education.

According to Wei, the Confucius Institute aims to expand its footprint by establishing additional Chinese language centers in western and southern Afghanistan, fostering greater people-to-people exchanges between the two nations.

Hamid Ghulami, an instructor at the Confucius Institute of Kabul University, underscored the burgeoning enthusiasm among Afghan students for mastering the Chinese language, attributing it to China's robust economic development.

"We are delighted to see Afghan students not only securing employment opportunities at Chinese-funded enterprises after graduation but also pursuing further academic and professional development in China," Ghulami said.

"Through China's education support, more Afghan students will be nurtured into globally-minded scholars and entrepreneurs," he added.

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