Yunnan school witnesses bond with African nation|Updated: May 31, 2024

The county of Jinping in Southwest China's Yunnan province is remote and largely unknown internationally, but it shares a special bond with Equatorial Guinea in West Africa.

Overlooking a vibrant open-air market and lush forests on a hill is the China-Equatorial Guinea Friendship Primary School, where more than 2,000 students receive an education.

In April 2015, during a visit to China, Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo announced a donation of over 4.9 million yuan ($676,000) to renovate an elementary school in Jinping. About a year later, a five-story building with 20 classrooms, 10 restrooms and five offices was inaugurated.

The aid reflected his country's belief in the importance of education, Obiang told Xinhua News Agency in an interview ahead of his state visit to China that started on Monday.

"When Equatorial Guinea offers such aid, it reflects our belief in the importance of training human talents. We think it is good for individuals to receive education and attain significant levels of knowledge, enabling them to become talents that can help their communities," he said.

Ran Hongyan, president of the school, said that before the renovation, the school building had only 12 classrooms, and the school had to turn away some students from nearby townships and villages due to limited space.

She said the funds from the West African country not only helped to refurbish the main school building, but also to construct a running track and a soccer field on the campus.

"The donation and the upgraded infrastructure have motivated us to devote more efforts to improving teaching quality and advancing all-around development of our pupils," Ran added.

Thanks to additional space provided by the renovated main building, the school is now able to accommodate more students and convert an old building into a venue for extracurricular activities — ranging from choral singing and Chinese plucked zither practice to chess and painting lessons.

Elements of Equatorial Guinea dot the campus. An exhibition room showcases a piece of Chinese calligraphy from a student, which reads, "The friendship between China and Equatorial Guinea will remain evergreen for centuries". A crayon drawing of the refurbished main building surrounded by students wearing colorful ethnic garments is also on display.

Chen Heng, vice-president of the school, said the school badge is shaped like a butterfly, which represents the diverse species of butterflies seen in Jinping county, while its green background matches the fact that more than 80 percent of Equatorial Guinea is covered by forests.

Because of its special bond with the West African nation, the school has received several groups of foreign visitors, including ambassadors and journalists, over the past few years.

Chen said that despite the language barrier, students and teachers were able to establish a connection with the visitors.

"Equatorial Guinea speaks Spanish and we could hardly find a Chinese-Spanish translator in the provincial capital of Kunming, let alone in a frontier area like Jinping," he said. "But our students and staff were able to quickly mingle with our friends from Africa through folk performances, including dancing and singing."

Jinping is home to nine indigenous ethnic groups and the school receives students belonging to 15 different ethnic groups.

As Obiang arrived in Beijing on Monday, more than 300 seniors of the school sent him a letter. "When we first came to the school six years ago, we were all curious about its name and gradually learned about the stories between China and Equatorial Guinea," it read.

"The school has planted a seed in our hearts to open our eyes and see the world. We have not only accessed a better learning environment and more resources, but have also broadened our horizons, showed our ethnic culture to the world, and formed deeper friendships with foreign friends," it added.