|Children perform during Children's Day event held at the China Kenya cultural education center in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 1. [Edith Mutethya / China Daily]|
In 2009, Liu Yun left China for Kenya with the aim of securing a job at a university, teaching Mandarin. At the time, demand for the language was growing rapidly, due to an increasing number of Chinese investors in the East African country. Liu secured a job at Egerton University, and that was the start of her career.
She was accompanied to Kenya by her two children and her husband, and would later give birth to her third child in 2012. However, while she enjoyed her job, she had a nagging feeling that she would like to venture into entrepreneurship - for the sake of the future of Chinese children living in Kenya.
In 2016, Liu realized that her children were more fluent in English than in Mandarin and that their memory of Chinese culture was fading. Her third child knew nothing about Chinese culture, and this worried her.
"I feared that my children might completely forget Mandarin and face a communication challenge once we went back to China. This would be in addition to experiencing culture shock. I had to think outside the box for the sake of my children's future," she says.
Her concern kindled her entrepreneurial instincts, and she came up with the idea of starting a school to teach Mandarin and Chinese culture, not only to the children of the Chinese community living in Nairobi but also to local people. It would also be an opportunity to teach Chinese nationals Kiswahili, a common language in Kenya.
Armed with that conviction and a passion to contribute to the growth of people-to-people interaction between China and Kenya, Liu launched the China Kenya Cultural Education Center in April 2017.
Since then, the center has experienced tremendous growth. In addition to Mandarin, it also teaches art, music, kung fu, tai chi and yoga, as well as Kiswahili.
"Unlike some years back, Chinese expatriates now move to Africa with their children. The center has thus given Chinese children an opportunity to learn about their culture, language and customs to avoid culture shock when they go back home," says Liu.
While the relationship between Kenya and China is close at the governmental level, Liu says people-to-people relationships could be better, perhaps due to the language barrier. This is why she was motivated to give Chinese and Kenyans alike an opportunity to learn each other's languages - to make communication easier.
She says effective communication will facilitate friendship and make doing business easier.
"To know more about people, you have to first know their language, after which it will be easier to communicate with them. China-Kenya people-to-people interaction can only be enhanced through Kenyans learning Mandarin and Chinese learning English and Kiswahili," she says.
Liu says the center has yet to attract a significant number of local people because most think it is targeting only children.
"We will advertise to create awareness among local people, especially adults, of courses that we are offering," she says.
The tuition fee is 500 Kenyan shillings ($5) per class per student. Children's classes are for one hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, after regular classes, and two hours on Saturday mornings. Adults can make appointments for convenient times.
On June 1, the center organized its first Children's Day, attracting many Chinese people living in Nairobi.
Noting that Children's Day is keenly observed in China, Liu says she wanted to give Chinese nationals living in Kenya an opportunity to observe it. "In addition to being taught in class, it's important to give children an opportunity to showcase their talents as well as have fun," Liu says.
The event was sponsored by the Kenya Chinese Women Association, which aims to enhance Sino-African relations and integration into local society.
After the success of the first event, Liu says she will make the Children's Day celebration an annual event.
Wang Le, the country director of Save the Children, says Children's Day should be observed across the globe because children are the future."It should be a day to remember what is really important for the children. Children should be treated well and special attention paid to those who are needy," she says.
Wang commended Liu for establishing the education center, saying it has provided a platform for people to learn about Chinese culture. The center is playing a key role in promoting China-Kenya people-to-people interaction, she adds.
During the Children's Day celebration, the center donated foodstuffs to the Tania Integrated Centre, a community-based organization that caters to children with physical impairments and other disabilities.
Jotham Kiogora, the center's program manager, commended the Chinese community in Kenya for its continued support. "We are grateful to the Chinese community in Nairobi. You have been very close to us, you have encouraged us in so many ways, you have donated food and clothing to our children and have encouraged us to move on," he says.
(Source: China Daily)
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