From left to right: Mr Solin, Mr Julie and Mrs Julie (Photo: Louis Toussaint)
The Seychelles-Russia Friendship Association has celebrated the 45th anniversary since the sending of the first cohort of Seychellois students to Russia for further studies.
It was on August 5, 1978 that Jeremy Solin and Priscilla Julie left Seychelles for Moscow for further studies. This was followed in the same month by Bryan Julie. Over the years, around 300 candidates have pursued long-term and short-term courses in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Russia.
In a ceremony yesterday evening at the Savoy Resort & Spa, Russian Ambassador to Seychelles Artyom Kozhin stated that Seychelles remains one of the most desirable destinations for Russian tourists who are champions within the spending index, and Russia is one of the top markets for the local tourism industry.
Russian Ambassador Kozhin addressing the guests (Photo: Louis Toussaint)
“No wonder that it is this year that the SRFA, which embraces the graduates of Soviet and Russian universities, has restarted its activities. It is 45 years this year since the first group of Seychellois students went to study in Moscow and other cities of our huge country,” he stated.
He considered it a success story. In addition, he explained that through the education they got in Russia, the Seychellois students achieved a lot. Among them some members went on to become members of government, principal secretaries, senior military officers, businessmen, prominent cultural figures, film directors, teachers, doctors and engineers.
“What makes me especially proud is that by providing good education we have invested a lot into capacity building in this country and, in general, in strengthening its sovereignty,” said Ambassador Kozhin.
He added that in the 1960s, Russia played a crucial role in the dismantling of the global colonial system, and thousands of students from new-born African and Asian countries were admitted in Russian universities. “This is definitely one of the most important foundations of the lasting friendship between Russia and them.”
Ambassador Kozhin said Russia is ready to offer more scholarships to Seychellois students and added that cooperation in the educational sphere was not only about pure academic studies.
“Education includes many other fields, like tourism, sports and culture. Today, we can engage more options like online education or targeted short term courses,” he noted.
For his part, the chairperson of the association, Vincent Meriton, stated that the decision to send Seychellois students abroad was made possible following the establishments of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Seychelles in 1976 and the drive to build the capacity of human resources at the dawn of the nationhood.
“Forty-five years later, as we reflect on the road travelled since, we are reminded of the challenges we faced, the opportunities we seized, and the bonds we forged,” stated Mr Meriton.
Mr Meriton (Photo: Louis Toussaint)
Furthermore, Mr Meriton mentioned that the ability to embrace the newfound culture while retaining the Seychellois identity was a testament to the Seychellois adaptability and determination. “Turning challenges into opportunities has always been the hallmark of those who have studied in the USSR,” added Mr Meriton.
He further added that the journey embarked upon by the first Seychellois students was not only in academic pursuit but also a profound journey of discovery and forging lifelong friendships that transcended borders. “The journey was a tapestry of happiness, a symphony of true friendships, love, and a newfound sense of family that transcended geographical boundaries,” said Mr Meriton who also handed over a certificate of appreciation to Ambassador Kozhin.
Mr Meriton handing over a certificate of appreciation to Ambassador Kozhin (Photo: Louis Toussaint)
He concluded by stating that as the association celebrates the milestone, they will pledge to give back to the community. “We recognise the debt of gratitude we owe to our country and our people. It is our duty to contribute to our homeland’s well-being.”
In her testimony on behalf of the cohort, Priscilla Julie who studied international law for six years and went on to successfully complete her studies with a Master’s degree, reflected on the fact that the very first thing she had to do upon arriving in Russia was to learn the language so as to be able to communicate with the locals.
Upon further reflection, she also spoke about the different cultural foods which she, along with her cohorts enjoyed. “Our studies were conducted in the Russian language throughout, and this was a big challenge for all of us,” she stated.
She humorously remarked that the subject of sports was compulsory and had to be passed before the actual exam as a motivation to keep the students active during the winter years.
For his part, Benjamin Port-Louis presented new opportunities in Russia for the next batch of Seychellois students who would wish to continue furthering their studies. One of the major opportunities is that in Seychelles, there are currently discussions of the Russian language being taught here for free.
Mr Port-Louis (Photo: Louis Toussaint)
During the ceremony, there was a minute of silence for those who studied in Russia and have since passed away.
The attendees got the chance to see a video and an exhibition at the end of the event which included photographs of the former students. Some even took photos with fellow Seychellois with framed old photos of them in the background.
To round off the event, two dancers took the stage to put on a lovely show for the audience.