A student of the school plays Guzheng in the teaching complex built with Equatorial Guinea funding on September 9 (HU FAN)
When told he was to visit a school in China funded by Equatorial Guinea, Daniel Oloo, a Kenyan studying at the Communication University of China, was somewhat skeptical. Oloo said he had never heard of any school in China funded by an African country.
In early September, together with his classmates Donatien Niyonzima, a Rwandan, and Vincent Mbonihankuye, a Burundian, Oloo joined a trip organized by ChinAfrica magazine to visit Yunnan Province in southwest China. On September 9, the fourth day of their trip, they arrived at the China-Equatorial Guinea Friendship Primary School located in Jinping County.
First built in 1918, the century-old school was renovated with funding of around 4.9 million yuan ($721,300) from Equatorial Guinea in 2016 and was renamed for the eighth time in its history.
At the school, the African guests were greeted by student representatives, who briefed them on the school’s history, most notably the renovation under the banner of China-Equatorial Guinea friendship, and various programs of the school. In return, Oloo and Niyonzima gave students an English class.
Standing in front of the five-story teaching complex, Oloo was amazed by how China-Africa friendship is helping local communities. “The school is assisting some of the children living in poverty to be able to grow up and become productive members of society,” he told ChinAfrica.
Daniel Oloo (left) and Donatien Niyonzima teach English in the school (HU FAN)
Mark of friendship
The renovation of the school originated from a proposal made by Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. During Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Equatorial Guinea in January 2015, the president expressed his willingness to donate money to build a primary school in China.
“The leaders of Equatorial Guinea wanted to donate a school to thank China for its support to their country and to consolidate China-Africa friendship,” said Ran Hongyan, Principal of the school.
In April the same year, during his state visit to China to celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang and Yu Zhengsheng, then Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), jointly inaugurated the school at a reception in Beijing.
The funding was allocated for the renovation of the school under the coordination of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). For 28 years, the MFA has been in a partnership with Jinping County to alleviate poverty there and has raised around 240 million yuan ($35.5 million) from foreign governments, international organizations and overseas Chinese, for this cause. The renovation of the school was just one of more than 900 projects initiated by the MFA in the county.
The renovation included a teaching complex and a playground, with construction beginning in May 2015 and completed in June the following year. In the teaching complex, a room is set aside to commemorate the friendship between Equatorial Guinea and China, where students’ writings and drawings about solidarity and friendship are displayed. The room is also used by the school to educate its students to be considerate people and pass down the legacy of China-Africa friendship.
The two countries have enjoyed a solid friendship since the establishment of bilateral ties in 1970. From 1984 to 2018, President Obiang visited China on 10 occasions. In his visit to China in 2015, the two countries upgraded bilateral ties to a comprehensive cooperative partnership.
Solidarity was also shown between the two countries in the fight against COVID-19 this year. In February, the government of Equatorial Guinea donated $2 million to China over the rampaging novel coronavirus outbreak in China. On May 25, China’s anti-COVID-19 expert team arrived in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo.
Students walk out of the school on September 9 (HU FAN)
Previously known as the First Primary School of Jinping County, the school has traditionally been the county’s largest primary school with modern facilities providing the best education. Many parents in the county want to send their children to the school, however there are insufficient classrooms to accommodate all of them. According to Ran, the previous teaching complex was a one-floor building that could only accommodate 300 students. The number has risen more than seven-fold since the latest renovations.
But back in 2000, the county didn’t have the money to renovate the school. Located in the southern mountainous areas of Yunnan Province bordering Viet Nam, it was severely impoverished. That year, the county’s fiscal revenue was around 20 million yuan ($3 million), while the expenditure needed was five times that amount.
The county realized that the root cause of its poverty was the lack of comprehensive quality of the population.
Therefore, the county made education a top priority in its poverty reduction agenda. While increasing investment in education at a higher rate than economic growth, it set up a foreign aid office to raise funds from overseas sources with the help of the MFA.
The renovation program of Jinping’s First Primary School in 2016 greatly improved the school’s conditions. With a construction area of around 2,500 square meters, the new teaching complex provided more classrooms for the school. This allowed the school to expand from 1,600 students in 32 classes to now 2,267 students in 45 classes, and staff increased from 86 to 107.
There are also rooms for various extra curriculum activities such as calligraphy, music and chorus. To facilitate communication among students of different ethnic groups, the school ensures that each student learns at least a song, a dance, or a story about other groups and speaks at least one other ethnic group’s language.
The school also now has more resources to help students from poor families. Of its 2,267 students, 278 are from registered poor households.
“The program contributed to meeting the needs of people of different ethnic groups for a better education,” said Ran.