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Unizik produces first indigenous prof of Chinese language in Nigeria

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Professor Ifeanyi Odinye, who currently serves as the Head of the Department of Chinese Studies, has attained the esteemed rank of professorship.

He stands as the inaugural indigenous Chinese language professor in Nigeria and potentially across the continent of Africa.

While expressing his joy and attributing all glory to God in a chat with Dr Emeka Odogwu, Odinye, who has been with the university since 2005, reflected on the history of the official teaching of the Chinese language in Nigeria, which started at Nnamdi Azikiwe University in 2004.

The initiative was driven by Prof. Ilochi Okafor (SAN), the then Vice-Chancellor, following a suggestion from the late Mr. Ike Mbaonu, a NAN staff with ties to China.

The Chinese Embassy’s visit in 2005, facilitated by Mr. Jiang Wenmin, resulted in the establishment of the Confucius Institute to teach Chinese language and culture.

Odinye, nominated by Prof. Ilochi Okafor, studied in China from 2005 to 2007, and in 2006, Chinese language and culture classes began at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, with Prof. Liu Guancai as the first foreign lecturer.

Odinye, proficient in Igbo, English, and Chinese, succeeded Prof. Liu Guancai, becoming the first Nigerian indigenous Chinese lecturer. Subsequently, Mr. Zhang Jinping joined in 2008, and the first set of diploma students graduated in 2009.

The Confucius Institute was officially established in 2008, and Odinye served as its Acting Director until the arrival of Prof. Ji Nengwen in 2009.

In 2010, Odinye, after completing a doctorate in Chinese language from Xiamen University, returned to become the first Nigerian lecturer with a Ph.D. in Chinese language. The NUC approved a Bachelor’s degree in Chinese Studies in 2014/2015, with Odinye appointed as the first coordinator of the Department of Chinese Studies.

Reflecting on his journey, Odinye expressed gratitude to past Vice-Chancellors, particularly Prof. Ilochi Okafor, Prof. Boniface Egboka, and Prof. Joseph Ahaneku. He commended the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, for his support and promotion. Odinye acknowledged the challenges of being the first Chinese language lecturer in Nigeria, including a lack of resources and the demanding workload.

Asked about his experiences teaching Chinese in Nigeria, Odinye highlighted the joy of molding minds and mentioned notable students who have excelled in their careers.

Despite the initial difficulties, he expressed pride in the progress of the Chinese language program at Nnamdi Azikiwe University and thanked his family for their support and sacrifice.

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