Building Chinese Language Skills for Sino-African Cooperation through Open and Distance Learning
China’s influence and deep relationships in Africa are the result of many years of investment in building relations through aid, trade, and cultural and technical exchange. In international politics, this is regarded as “soft power”. Yet, an important area that has for a long time not being given the penetrating attention it deserves, relates to the fundamental need to bridge the language barrier between Chinese and Africans, so as to ensure meaningful cooperation and engagement between China, the country, and Africa, the continent. In order to address this problem, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in collaboration with Huaren Chinese Services is currently promoting the use of open and distance learning (ODL) for the provision of Chinese language education and training at the Proficient, Certificate and Executive levels. The new programme has the central objective of breaking the communication barrier between Nigerian and Chinese business partners through a Chinese language training programme that would empower learners to speak Chinese language within the shortest possible time. The University uses a variety of delivery methods and tools including face to face (f2f), text-based resources, CD ROMs and Web-based resources, and has managed to build capacity in the field of ICT, by empowering staff with functional skills. Within this context, the relationship between the major theme and cross cutting aspects of the Sixth Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF6) are discussed under “Skills Development for National Development” with particular reference to language as a necessary tool for international cooperation. This study concludes with the relevance of the application of ODL methodologies in educational delivery and as a means of enhancing international cooperation.