“It Takes Ten Years to Grow a Tree, A Hundred Years to Nurture a Man”
——ZANG Pauline, First Local Chinese Teacher in Cameroon

[Source]    Confucius Institute at the University of Yaoundé II [Time]    2018-09-17 14:25:18 

On September 5th, Zang Pauline, the first local Chinese teacher in Cameroon, passed away at the General Hospital of Yaoundé. Jiang Yujiao, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Yaoundé II, and other Chinese teachers bid her farewell.


In 1996, the Chinese and Cameroonian governments signed an agreement to establish a Chinese language training center at the University of Yaoundé II. At that time, Pauline, who was teaching English and French at the School of International Relations of the University of Yaoundé II, was appointed by the Cameroonian Ministry of Higher Education as Cameroonian Director of the training center. In 1998 at the age of 54, sponsored by a government scholarship, she became the first African student to Zhejiang Normal University for further Chinese study. After returning to Cameroon in 2000, in addition to continuing her previous French and English teaching, Pauline also opened a new Chinese course at the School of International Relations of the University of Yaoundé II. In 2007, Zhejiang Normal University and the International Relations School of the University of Yaoundé II co-established the Confucius Institute, of which Pauline became the first local Chinese teacher.

Over the past 18 years, she has taught more than 10,000 students across Cameroon from all walks of life, including politics, business, and education. She met with many high-ranking Chinese officials over the past several years, including, then Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin in 2010, then State Councilor Liu Yandong in 2011, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in 2015, all of whom highly praised her.

Pauline teaching

Pauline (second from right) and her students

During her tenure as a local Chinese teacher, under cooperation with the Confucius Institute, Pauline volunteered to teach Chinese at various schools in Yaoundé ranging all the way from primary schools to colleges and universities; participated in many activities organized by the Confucius Institute, such as the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students, Voice of Cameroon, Local Chinese Teacher Martial Arts Competition, so on and so forth.

Pauline in the Voice of Cameroon

Pauline being a judge in the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students

Pauline also worked with her student Li Zexi to compile a series of textbooks named Rang Wo Men Xue Xi Han Yu Ba (Let’s Learn Chinese) in Chinese, French and English, which have been well received by Chinese teachers and students.

In Pauline’s house, various posters of the cultural activities held by the Confucius Institute decorate the interior, her master’s degree certificate of Zhejiang Normal University and the commemorative medal are displayed in the living room, and many Chinese textbooks and other Chinese books neatly shelved, including Bonjour Cameroon, New Practical Chinese Reader, Xin Hua Zi Dian, Rang Wo Men Xue Xi Han Yu Ba and others. She also transformed her living room into a miniature Chinese classroom, offering free Chinese courses to those children who are eager to learn Chinese.

Pauline’s master’s degree certificate from Zhejiang Normal University and the commemorative medal

Pauline’s collection of the commemorative albums of the Confucius Institute’s 10th Anniversary

The miniature Chinese classroom transformed from a living room

Among her underprivileged students, a child who was abandoned by his parents due to his congenital blindness has received long-term assistance from Pauline. She even gave him a very meaningful Chinese name—Zhang Jia. “I picked Zhang as his surname because I want to raise him as my own child, and I chose Jia as his first name because I hope he can grow up to be a kind and useful person”, she said. With the help of Pauline, Zhang Jia has learned Chinese, enabling him to support himself, while promoting Chinese and the culture of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

International Chinese teaching would not have gone anywhere without the promotion and support of both teachers in China, who work on international Chinese education, and those local Chinese teachers in other countries. As an old saying holds that “It takes ten years to grow a tree, a hundred years to nurture a man”, Pauline was not only a promoter of Chinese and Chinese culture in Cameroon, but also a practitioner of Chinese traditional virtues.

Story by Xu Yingchao; photos by Song Zhijing