HARARE, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday held a farewell ceremony for 50 students who are going to undertake undergraduate studies at a Chinese university.
Studying under the auspices of the Presidential Scholarship Program whose patron is President Mugabe, the students are being sponsored by a Chinese company at a cost of 12 million Chinese yuan (1.8 million U.S. dollars).
The students will be studying at Ocean University of China in east China's Qingdao city for the next four years.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Mugabe thanked the Chinese firm for the assistance which he said would ensure continuity of the program which was now facing funding shortages due to economic challenges in the country.
He said the support in the education sector signified strong bilateral relations between the two countries and marked a turning point in the expansion of the presidential scholarship program to other countries besides South Africa.
Since its launch in 1995 to assist academically gifted but underprivileged children in Zimbabwe, the Presidential Scholarship Program has sent students to study in South Africa only, with about 20,000 Zimbabwean students having benefited so far.
"I am sure this thrust to China is going to be very important and perhaps one of the largest thrusts of our scholarship program in the future," Mugabe said.
He said Zimbabwe had high respect and was confident in the Chinese education system which had catapulted the country to become the second largest economy in the world.
Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping said education and cultural exchange had become an integral part of China-Zimbabwe bilateral cooperation, and pledged more Chinese support to Zimbabwe's education sector.
Qingdao Hengshun Zhongsheng Group Vice President Chen Jian said the company would in the future increase the number of students that it supports under the program to 100 per year.
He said the firm was keen to fund education in Zimbabwe because its corporate culture resonated with President Mugabe's commitment to education.
"Each year, we will provide for 50-100 outstanding Zimbabwean students to study in China until graduation for the next years," he said. Enditem