Building peace in the minds of men and women

Twenty-five years of the Great Wall Fellowships Programme: a Life-changing journey

UNESCO/China (the Great Wall) Co-sponsored Fellowships Programme, which was jointly established by UNESCO and the Government of China, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. A side event titled “Fellowships change lives” assembled the stakeholders, including the representatives from the Government of China, UNESCO, participating countries, educational institutes and 6 fellow representatives from Jamaica, Mauritius, Namibia, Thailand, Ukraine and Zambia to share their experience and insights into the impact of the Programme in the past 25 years.

Initiated in 1994, the Programme aims to promoting academic excellence and enhancing the human resources of developing countries. It has been an important part of South-South cooperation by which UNESCO and China strive to enhance technology and knowledge transfer through academic mobility with nearly half of all fellows coming from Africa. As Ms Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, said in her opening remarks at the side event on 13 November, this Programme “is of exemplary importance of the commitment of countries and the support of International Organizations in improving multilateralism and advancing development for all.” This joint effort between UNESCO and China has steadily grown from a programme of regional scope in 1990s to its global reach today. Around 700 fellows, working in over 200 academic disciplines from more than 100 countries have been trained at Chinese universities from 1994 to 2019.

Since 2015, the programme awards 75 fellowships every year to aspiring fellows from developing Member States in five continents. Its contribution to Africa has been further strengthened by the recent partnership with Education Sector through a one-year advanced teacher training programme at the East China Normal University in Shanghai. From 2016 to present, 71 teachers and teacher trainers from the ten participating African countries of the China-Fund-in-Trust project have since been trained as the Great Wall fellows. This programme has enabled the fellows to upgrade their knowledge and improve their skills, setting them on a path of professional development and personal growth. It also has provided the fellows an opportunity to go out of their countries and return with new friendship and deepened understanding of different cultures.

According to Mr Baosheng Chen, the Minister of Education of China, this programme “sows the seeds of friendships between the fellows, between the fellows and their Chinese professors. Many of them have become messengers of friendly exchanges between different countries, different civilizations and different cultures and bridges for promoting people to people exchanges.” A brochure of shared experience from the Great Wall fellows ”Fellowships change lives”, was also launched to commemorate the creation of this scholarship program. Discover here the testimonials extracted from the brochure, by the 6 fellow representatives, sharing their experience as the Great Wall fellows and how this experience has influenced their personal and professional development.

Mwenya Kapasa - Zambia

National Project Coordinator, ILO Country Office for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique
Fellow of Session 2000-2001 in Economic Management, Northeastern University, Shenyang

Arriving in China as a 26 year old young African exposed me to many interesting experiences. From the moment I was accepted as a fellow, I began to open my mind on the importance of trying new things. Looking back, this approach helped me in dealing with the challenges, and as much as possible I focused my energies on turning challenges into opportunities. The training I received under the fellowship was hugely beneficial as it went beyond the academic scope to include exposure to language and cultural diversity. The growing trade and cooperation between China and most African countries puts people with knowledge of Chinese at an advantage. Even though I have ventured into a different field of social protection, I am able to apply this language skill whenever I have an opportunity.

Sakaria Siranda Kambndo - Namibia

Chief Education Officer, National Institute for Educational Development, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture
Fellow of Session 2016-17 in Educational Policy, Leadership and Management, East China Normal University, Shanghai

Before I left for China, I had little knowledge of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Thanks to the training in China, my knowledge of ESD has been enriched. On my return to Namibia, I represented the Ministry in a national consultative workshop in September 2017 with multiple stakeholders to finalize the development of a policy document on Environmental Education (EE) and Education for Sustainable Development. Under my guidance, the Ministry has made great strides by continuously addressing EE/ESD issues in the evolving process of curriculum revisions for basic education. The training in China has changed my career prospects as I am now in a better position to understand the various issues around education, mainly on ESD, and I am making a significant impact in the line of my duties.

Chana Yiangkamolsing - Thailand

Associate Professor, School of Engineering,The University of Thai Chamber of Commerce,
Fellow of Session 2000-2001 in Machine Manufacturing and ITS Automation, Tsinghua University, Beijing

This opportunity was the first time for me to study abroad and to travel by airplane. Everything was new to me. I worked in a renown laboratory of Tsinghua University and witnessed the research and development on the cutting-edge technology, 3D printing for instance, 19 years ago, which has been widely used today all around the world.
I went back to Thailand with a new perception of China. I adapted into my work this experience, as well as the good habits and daily customs of Chinese people, including hard working, concentration on self-development and being willing to share benefits with all people in the country.

Sonia Mary Wong Yin Sang - Mauritius

Master’s Student, MSc China in Comparative Perspective, London School of Economics and Political Science
Fellow of Session 2017-18 in International Relations, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou

I actually think that opportunities like this fellowship allow us to think deeply, to be more critical of ourselves, and to see a perspective from various angles and hear different parts of the story. I am immensely grateful to the fellowship, for not only did I embark on an academic journey, which prepared me for my current studies at a top university in the UK. As a Sino-Indo-Mauritian with Irish origin, this fellowship was also a journey of personal development as it reconnected me with my Hakka roots.
It forms part of my journey and I wish many more young people to live through these kinds of experiences through fellowships, which allow them to be continuously shaped and reshaped by their encounters.

Kateryna Komiaha - Ukraine

Chinese language teacher, I.I. Mechnikov National University, Odessa, Ukraine
Fellow of Session 2017-18 in Chinese Language and Culture, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou

Looking back to the year in China when I was 20 years old, I can see how studying abroad not only change me, but also continue shaping my life. This programme provides me chance and opportunty to see the other side of the world. It gave me perspectives how to be more patient and taught me to understand others. Studying abroad is not only enjoying local cuisine or tourist sides, we meeting people, make friends of different cultures and background.
After returned to Ukraine, I had the opportunity to apply the knowledge I learned about Chinese language and culture. I became a teacher of Chinese in my university and spare no effort to encourage my students to study one of the hardest languages in the world and to consider becoming an exchange student, to step outside their comfort zone so as to boost their confidence and career prospects.

Aisha Alexis Subria Thompson - Jamaica

MBA Student
Fellow of Session 2017-18 in Business Administration, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang

Being in China exposed me to a diversity of backgrounds, interests, ideologies and philosophical ideals. I have been immersed in a melting pot of various cultures, lifestyles, food and experiences. It has been a pleasure for me to share a classroom with the best and brightest minds from all over the world. This experience has thoroughly broadened my horizon and has introduced me to new ways of thinking and understanding the world around me.
I strongly believe that studying abroad is one of the best things I have even done. It opens my world to possibility that I never thought I was able to do and gives me the skills that will enable me to not only be a good member contributing to the society, but also someone who will positively effect change in my society.




See the UNESCO website here, for more information about UNESCO/China (the Great Wall) Co-sponsored Fellowships Programme
For additional information, contact Stoyan Bantchev or Boya Qin