by Li Li, Li Binian
BEIJING China (Xinhua) -- Daniel Muoki,
a 21-year-old Kenyan who studies railway technology in Beijing,
has a big plan for his future.
"When I graduate here, I
will work in Kenya for some years and then I may come back to
China for my masters, or even a PhD," said Muoki, with a
confident smile on his face.
Currently a sophomore student at Beijing Jiaotong University,
a top university in China for railway studies, Muoki is
originally from a small village in Makueni county in southeast
Situated near a national park and surrounded by thick
forests, Muoki’s hometown is only 15 km from the Mombasa-Nairobi
rail line—the country’s first modern railway built with Chinese
standards and technology.
Usually, people in Makueni travel to the capital Nairobi by
bus, or through the old railway, which was built a century ago
during British colonial rule, and both trips could take at least
four hours, according to Muoki. However, with the new
China-built rail track set to start operation in June, this
journey will be shortened to less than two hours, he said.
The 480-km-long railway connects Nairobi with Mombasa, a
historic port of the ancient Maritime Silk Road linking China
with Africa and now an important node of the China-proposed Belt
and Road Initiative in East Africa.
As the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since the
country’s independence, the railway is expected to slash the
travel time between the two cities from more than 10 hours to
With its completion, thousands of rail workers and
specialists will be needed to operate and maintain this new
In response to such a demand, the China Communications
Construction Company (CCCC), which has been building the
3.8-billion-U.S.-dollar rail line, has promised to sponsor at
least 100 Kenyan high school students to pursue undergraduate
study in railway technology at Beijing Jiaotong University with
an aim to help the East African country train its future railway
The Kenyan government plans to hire all the China-trained
graduates to work for the new rail.
"As a Chinese old saying goes, one should not only give a man
fish, but also teach him how to fish," said Liu Xiaofang with
the Center for International Education at Beijing Jiaotong
The CCCC scholarship program is part of China’s commitment to
implement its Belt and Road Initiative proposed by the Chinese
leadership with the aim to build a trade and infrastructure
network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient
Silk Road routes.
Upon seeing the advertisement for the Chinese scholarship on
TV, Muoki submitted his application right away.
"Since my childhood, I dreamed of being an engineer, but I
was not sure what kind of engineer.
"When I know about this scholarship, I know my dream would
come true by being a railway engineer.
"I am so happy," he said.
Muoki is among the 25 Kenyan students who arrived in China in
April last year to study at Beijing Jiaotong University.
They are the first batch of recipients of the CCCC
The second batch of 35 students landed in Beijing in March
According to Liu, Beijing Jiaotong University has selected
the best teachers to provide the Kenyan students courses in
English and offered them good accommodation.
Meanwhile, they have been invited to attend a variety of
activities on the campus so as to learn the Chinese language and
culture, and mingle with other students.
Zhu Yabin, who teaches the Kenyans physics experiments, felt
satisfied with their performance in class.
"To be honest, I was worried that they could not catch up
with the course.
"But now it seems there is no difference between the Kenyan
students and the Chinese ones," she said.
Majoring in rail transit signals and controlling, Muoki now
lives in a spacious, tidy double room with a bathroom and a
The scholarship is enough to cover all his tuition and costs
despite the rising living expenses in Beijing, he said.
The young man said he loves Chinese food, particularly jiaozi,
or Chinese dumplings.
And he enjoys running and playing football with his Chinese
friends, whom he feels are like "brothers and sisters."
In particular, Muoki is fascinated by the Chinese language
despite its difficulty, and his favorite course is Chinese
"At first it is discouraging, but I put some effort in it and
it is not so difficult now," said Muoki, as he carefully wrote
down his name in Chinese on a notebook.
Like Muoki, Nakayo Ekwee, one of the few girls in the group,
also fully enjoys her new life in China.
She is passionate about learning Chinese language and culture
and loves making Chinese friends.
The 20-year-old major of vehicle engineering is from Turkana
country in Lodwar town in northwest Kenya, where there is no
railway at all.
Yet she has long dreamed of being a rail engineer as "there
will be plenty of jobs in my country," said Ekwee.
For her, the Mombasa-Nairobi railway will significantly
change local people’s life in Kenya.
"The railway will provide many jobs and improve people’s
"It also promotes business and economy," she said.
Ekwee said she chose to study in China as it is a leading
country in railway technology.
Besides railway, the girl felt that she could learn
"everything" from China, especially the Chinese people’s working
spirit, which is a "good model for Kenyans to copy."
During her one-year stay in China, Ekwee traveled to
Guangzhou in south China by high-speed trains and was really
"I think they are better than planes.
"I sometimes feel sick on planes, I do not feel sick on
trains and they are very fast," said Ekwee.
"In Kenya, we couldn’t afford such trains for now.
"But I hope we can have them some day in the future," she