KABUL: As millions of people around the world are gearing up to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Chinese-language learning Afghan students have come together here to share the joy and excitement of their neighboring folk.
Held at the Avicenna Language Institute of the private Ibn-Sina University in Kabul, the event was the first-ever Chinese Spring Festival celebratory ceremony to take place in an Afghan private university.
"This is the first time Chinese Spring Festival has been celebrated in a private educational institute in Kabul. But more efforts are needed to improve bilateral ties between the two nations," Baqer Niazi, Director of Ibn-Sina University Language Institute, told the audience Wednesday.
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"Today's celebration with no doubt has become a platform for cultural exchange between China and Afghanistan," he said.
A contest between two groups of students presenting articles in Mandarin and singing a Chinese song was among the various performances during the celebration.
"My message to the Chinese people is to have a very good New Year, a successful New Year," Niazi told Xinhua.
Praising the celebration, Niazi said that Afghanistan has received a lot of Chinese investment over the past 17 years and the two nations have enjoyed improved and stronger relations than at any other time in the past.
"Chinese people are very successful from the perspectives of business and agriculture. Afghans can learn a lot from our Chinese friends. In the past, the language barrier had been a challenge for Afghans who wanted to visit China for business or education, but now, it is not a problem anymore," he said.
"Nowadays, many Afghans can speak Chinese after they learned the language at the Kabul University and other educational institutions, like our Avicenna Language Institute," student Mohammad Reza Haidari told Xinhua in Chinese on Wednesday.
"Today's celebration brings joy to students, but at the same time, we also learned a lot about Chinese culture, language and traditions," he said.
After the performances, Niazi joined other teachers and guests to present certificates to 12 Afghan students, who recently passed a Chinese language proficiency test, HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) program.
"We hope to continue our studies in Chinese universities. And we are looking forward to receiving more scholarships. At present, only two male students from our institute are learning Chinese after they won scholarships from the Chinese government," Haidari said.
"I want to extend my best wishes to the Chinese government and people during the New Year celebrations. I wish our Chinese friends the very best New Year," Farzana Khashie, who is teaching Chinese at the Avicenna Language Institute, told Xinhua.
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"China and Afghanistan are old friends, they are neighbors and a good neighbor is better than a far off cousin. Today's celebration has been a very constructive step forward for exchanges of culture and tradition. Such events would deepen the ties between the two countries and bring our peoples closer," she said.
The Avicenna Language Institute has enrolled around 50 students in its Chinese Department, of whom two have won scholarships to study in China. It also holds English, Turkish, German, Russian and French classes.
"Due to the recent expansion of business and cultural relations between Afghanistan and China, many Afghan youth believe that learning the Chinese language is a key to finding a decent job.
We will need dozens of Chinese interpreters in the coming years. Our institution is trying to further improve the Chinese Department to enroll more students in the future and further promote the Chinese language in Afghanistan," Khashie explained.