The Roots School System, in collaboration with China Radio International, recently organized an event to celebrate the 60th year of Sino-Pak relations at the Pakistan-China Friendship Center in Islamabad. It was attended by a number of important figures, including Ambassador Liu Jian, China’s envoy to Pakistan; Pakistani Ambassador to China, Masood Khan; Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr. Firdous Aashiq Awan; and Chairman of the Pakistan-China Institute, Mushahid Hussain.
Following a rendition of the national anthems of both countries, the proceedings began with a series of short addresses. In a message relayed by the stage secretary, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani lauded the Roots School System for its pioneering initiative of teaching the Chinese language as an integral part of the curriculum, and expressed pleasure at the fact that over a thousand students were currently part of the program. He congratulated the Roots School System and China Radio International for celebrating the Pakistan-China Friendship Year, and reiterated his support for their endeavors in promoting the multi-faceted relationship between the two countries.
Faisal Mushtaq, Executive Director of the Roots School System, thanked the students’ parents for sharing the school’s ambition for learning Chinese, and for inculcating this passion in their children. He declared that to the world, China is a great nation, but to Pakistan, it is a great friend. He highlighted the importance of promoting interaction between the people of both countries to enhance socio-cultural understanding, and to help in creating a new people to people dimension in a historical friendship, which had largely been limited to governments.
Mushahid Hussain described how the idea of the Roots Confucius Classroom had been born on Mushtaq’s first visit to Urumqi, where the Director had proposed establishing a comprehensive program for teaching Chinese to Pakistani students, and how Mushtaq’s relentless efforts were bearing fruit as nearly 1500 students were currently learning Mandarin. Mushahid Hussain lauded Mushtaq’s passion, and his role in building a new Pakistani generation which would be well versed in the Chinese language and culture. He underscored the importance of this by adding that the 21st century would be an Asian century, led by the rise of China. He also stated that for the two neighbors, who were already partners in the fields of economy and security, education was the newest point of convergence.
Ambassador Jian mirrored these sentiments on the significance of learning Chinese in order to foster stronger ties, saying that if the two countries had been able to develop and sustain a strong relationship despite the language barrier, the possibilities that existed once it were overcome, could be imagined. He asserted that it was improved people to people contact, especially between the youth of the two nations, that would enhance the Sino-Pak friendship and carry it into the future.
The students’ program then commenced, beginning with the Ribbon and Flag Bearers Dance. Two chains of students descended the stairs of the auditorium at a run, with banners symbolizing the growing Sino-Pak friendship held high above their heads. The energetic music, accompanied by the thunderous applause of an auditorium packed to capacity with the families of the school children, was a fitting start to the evening’s cultural festivity. It was followed by a tribute to the armed forces of Pakistan and China, as students dressed in the military uniforms of the two countries marched to austere music.
The program was largely built around musical recitals depicting Chinese culture and tradition. Among the performances that particularly stood out were that of Shui Xiu or Water Sleeve Dance, performed by girls in delicate blue dresses with elongated sleeves; the Moli Hua or Jasmine Dance, a tribute to Pakistan’s national flower; the Descendants of the Dragon Dance, performed to Chinese popular music; the Tai Chi Chuan performance, a demonstration of a form of Chinese martial art; the Lion Dance, carried out by two groups of students in traditional lion costumes of red and gold; and, the highlight of the evening, the Karate performance, where both male and female students demonstrated their martial arts prowess through a series of challenging exercises that drew enthusiastic appreciation from the audience. Each performance had a distinctive backdrop and carefully tailored costumes, reflecting the effort that had gone into ensuring authenticity and maximum audio-visual impact. Also included were traditional performances by the PNCA dance troupe of Islamabad.
At the end of the program, Firdous Ashiq Awan was requested to say a few words. In reference to the final performance, and to the amusement of the audience, she jokingly referred to herself as the “best player of political karate.” The Minister expressed her appreciation for the achievements of the Roots Confucius Classroom and lauded the Roots School System for turning the language barrier into a tool for greater opportunity and diversity.