Boosting African journalism

[Image] At a previous edition of Highway Africa, a
journalist takes part in a Unesco workshop
using the new Education for All media
training resource kit. (Image: Unesco)

Jaco du Toit, advisor for Communication
and Information, Unesco Southern Africa
+264 61 291 7221
Sibusiso Mtshali
Highway Africa conference manager
+27 46 603 7186

Rhodes – Journalism and Media Studies
Rhodes – New Media Lab
Highway Africa
Open Society Network Media Programme
Open Society Foundation

 Janine Erasmus

South Africa’s Rhodes University and the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (Unesco) have teamed up to strengthen journalism training in Africa.

The Eastern Cape-based university’s School of Journalism and Media Studies, together with Unesco, will present a week-long training programme for journalism teachers, with a focus on new media.

The course, which is already full, takes place from 7-11 September 2009 and will be conducted by Prof Jude Mathurine of the university’s New Media Lab. Mathurine is a specialist in the field.

“The workshop aims to spotlight the role and place of new media pedagogy in African journalism school curricula,” said Mathurine, “and discuss tools and thinking strategies that educators and learners need to advance African journalism in the age of digital convergence”.

The initiative also features the Africa Regional Preparatory Colloquium, which takes place on 9 September under the convenorship of Prof Fackson Banda, the university’s SAB-Unesco Chair of Media and Democracy.

This gathering will serve as part of Africa’s preparations for the forthcoming World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC), taking place at Rhodes from 5-7 July 2010. This will be the second edition.

Uniting journalism teachers

Presented with the support of Unesco, the Open Society Institute of West Africa, the Open Society Institute’s Network Media Programme and South Africa’s telecommunication provider Telkom, the research colloquium is expected to draw journalism teachers from across the continent.

Poor representation from the African continent was an unfortunate feature of the inaugural WJEC in Singapore in 2007. And not only the quantity, according to Banda, but also the intellectual quality of African journalistic contributions to these gatherings is of concern.

The one-day gathering aims to address this issue by coordinating pan-African contributions and creating a shared identity and agenda for African journalism education in both the continental and global context.

The colloquium takes place during the annual Highway Africa conference, an initiative of Rhodes University and the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Highway Africa is touted as the largest annual gathering of African journalists on the continent, and focuses on journalistic issues relating to new media.

No fewer than 35 research papers on African journalism education – ranging from career choices for female students, to reporting on conflict and crises, and citizen journalism – will be delivered in four concurrent sessions. In addition to the multitude of local speakers, there will be distinguished guest presenters from Norway, the UK, US and a number of African countries.

An entire strategic session is dedicated to the 2010 WJEC. Topics under discussion include the ways in which African teachers can get involved in the event, such as volunteering as peer reviewers, fundraising to ensure attendance or participating in the development of a model curriculum on “reporting Africa” to present at WJEC.

Strengthening African journalism

Through the upcoming training programme Unesco and Rhodes together hope to further boost the capacities of journalism schools across the continent, especially those recently identified as potential centres of excellence and potential centres of reference.

Earlier in 2009 Unesco embarked on a continent-wide project with the African Union to boost the quality of journalism in Africa, especially in the fields of science and technology.

During the initial information-gathering period 12 institutions, four in South Africa, were identified as potential centres of excellence.

They are the Mass Communication Department at Makerere University in Uganda; the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kenya’s Nairobi University; the Department of Mass Communication at Nigeria’s University of Lagos; the School of Communication, Legal and Secretarial Studies at the Namibia Polytechnic; the Mozambican School of Journalism; the Centre d’études des sciences et techniques de l’information in Senegal; the École supérieure des sciences et techniques de l’information et de la communication in Cameroon; and Morocco’s Institut supérieur de l’information et de la communication.

The South African schools are the Department of Journalism at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes, the School of Communication Studies at Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape, and the Department of Journalism at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, Gauteng.

Of the nine potential centres of reference, two are in Nigeria, with one each in Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and Madagascar.

A number of strategy meetings between educational representatives of the countries involved have already taken place. It is generally agreed that if these institutions are to achieve their potential, they must boost skills levels in new media, specifically mobile- and internet-related journalism.