About 15 – 20 years ago, Christchurch branch stalwarts Bill Willmott and Di Madgin were aware of a large number of young Chinese students attending a growing number of English language schools in Christchurch. The local polytechnic had a multi-cultural Chinese language certificate and a growing number of local high schools were looking to set up English language classes to which our society’s branch offered to supply books as prizes. At that time Professor Bill Wilmott was on a committee at the polytechnic, to give support to a Rewi Alley scholar who was here from China. From that, it was planned that a ceremony would be given at the end of each year by our society for Chinese language students. This ceremony has continued since then, and has become a firm and very successful event in our branch’s annual programme.
The latest annual prizegiving ceremony was on the evening of Friday 20 November at St Margaret’s College, when prizes were given to 49 young people at local schools who have achieved a level of excellence in their learning of the Chinese language and culture. There were about 175 people present, which included proud parents, siblings and grandparents, as well as teachers – of course.
We were honoured to have the attendance of Deputy Consul General Zhai Xingfu and Councillor Jimmy Chen, representing Mayor Lianne Dalziel. A welcome was given by branch president Michelle MacWilliam, followed by a welcome to the students by St Margaret’s College International Dean Chris Chambers. Deputy Consul General Zhai Xingfu then spoke, as well as Councillor Jimmy Chen. Unfortunately, Bill Willmott and Di Madgin were unable to attend but sent their very best wishes for the event and their congratulations to the successful students.
The Chinese consulate kindly gave us 10 toy pandas and 10 traditional style Chinese fans, which we were able to give away as prizes.
One of the very interesting aspects was the nationalities of the students. You could be forgiven for thinking they would have been largely either Kiwis or New Zealand-born Chinese, but no, they were actually also from all over the world; Japan, Turkey, Africa, Korea, India, South Africa, Thailand etc. A wonderful and uplifting example of cultural mixing and learning.