By NICO SCAVELLA
MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell yesterday urged 16 Bahamian students to be “ambassadors for the country” after they were all granted full scholarships by the People’s Republic of China to study or continue studies in China during the 2014-2015 school year.
Making his address at a scholarship awards ceremony at the Melia Cable Beach Hotel, Mr Mitchell said this year’s recipients “ought to be commended” as relations between the Bahamas and China “continue to strengthen” and charged them to portray “all that is good” about the Bahamas to the Chinese people.
“I’m happy (today) that the awardees have been afforded this great opportunity, an opportunity not only to receive a tertiary education, but to be ambassadors for the country,” he said. “To share with the people of China the richness of our heritage, traditions, culture, and to bring back their experiences to the Bahamas. The group is a representation of the multi faceted, talented and continuously growing potential that our nation possesses.
“The awardees, I encourage (you) to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn all you can and strive for excellence in all of you endeavours. We look forward to welcoming you back to the Bahamas upon completion of your studies. We are sure that you will play a pivotal role in the continuous development of our country.”
The 16 recipients are the latest Bahamians to benefit from China’s scholarship programme, which dates back to May 1997. Since then, Mr Mitchell said the Chinese government has to date “graciously awarded 58 Bahamian students with a vast array of scholarships” including in the areas of medicine, manufacturing, business management, finance marketing, Chinese culture, Mandarin and architecture.
Students only become scholarship candidates after first completing the online Chinese scholarship application and submitting it with supporting documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry then forwards the applications to the Chinese Embassy which in turn forwards the applications to China for consideration.
Lastly, the Chinese Embassy notifies the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the successful recipients, usually around the first week in August each year.
Teshar Johnson, speaking on behalf of the recipients, acknowledged that the application process was one of “many ups and downs and anxieties,” but said that the opportunity is one of many that the relationship between China and the Bahamas provides for Bahamian students. “The exchange of knowledge, culture, and customs will provide benefits unlike any other that can ever be produces when operating as a country on solidarity,” she said. “We are grateful for the People’s Republic of China and for the opportunity to study various degrees and concentrations to develop our educational abilities. We are excited to embrace all that this experience will offer and endeavour to represent the Bahamas well.”
The scholarship recipients will pursue a number of disciplines - from economics to bio-medical engineering, at any university chosen by the Chinese government.
As for safety concerns, Chinese Ambassador H E Yuan Guisen assured that the students will be “safe and happy in China.”
“I can guarantee that,” he said. “They will meet the same enthusiastic and friendly people in China as (Bahamians) are.”
Two additional students were also offered scholarships to study at the College of the Bahamas’ Confucius Institute for the 2014-2015 school year.