The general lack of quality education for journalism students is an issue addressed in almost all of our international programmes, as skilled journalists and media workers are essential for qualitative and independent journalism. To facilitate the establishment of national and regional academic networks within media and journalism, Fojo recently brought nine members from universities in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Somalia together for a learning tour around Rwanda.
Universities are key actors in the establishment of quality education for journalists but also for the development of research and as a platform for a discussion around the role of media in society. A vital part of improving journalism education is establishing networks between universities, both on a national and regional level, so that these institutions can learn from each other about best practices in education as well as contribute to joint further research on this topic.
Fojo has recently facilitated the establishment of such a regional academic network between three countries in which Fojo have ongoing projects, namely Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Somalia. This emerging network took off during a one week learning tour in Rwanda, where a total of nine journalism educators from the two latter countries visited journalism education institutions and other media stakeholders in Kigali. For a full rundown of the visits conducted during the productive week, please read THIS personal recap of the experience written by two of the participants from Ethiopia, Zelalem Tesfaye and Fitih Alemu of the Ethiopian Journalism Educators’ Network and Bahar Dar University.
A concrete reason to why the network is being established is to offer a platform where the participating universities can discuss shared challenges and hardships, and to find common solutions to these mutual problems. During the early days of the visit, it became evident that the need for an outlet on this was highly needed. From the get-go discussions were vivid and filled with constructive solutions for ways forward, both for the respective universities and the network as a whole. As an example of the universities’ shared commitments, the following list of resolutions emerged over the course of the week, constituted by the Dean of the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Studies at ICK, Jean-Baptiste Hategekimana, in collaboration with the participants from both Somalia and Ethiopia:
- Create a good network that will facilitate our regular communication;
- Motivate our respective universities to establish a strong partnership for quality journalism education;
- Reinforce practical modules in our respective universities;
- Promote gender equality in our respective universities;
- Update our curricula to fit with the needs of the newsrooms and the society in general
- Conduct joint research to find solutions to our common challenges;
- Initiate exchange programs for both lecturers and students;
- Internationalize our programs.”
Another shared area of interest among the participants was how to communicate and teach about reporting in conflict and post-conflict societies. Since all three participating countries share their own versions of a violent past (and present), there was a lot of experiences and learnings to take back home for each and everyone. A visit to the NGO “Never Again Rwanda”, during which the role of Rwandan media before, during and after the Genocide against the Tutsi was discussed, as well as a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial proved to be especially important in this regard. On this topic, one of the Somali professors, Dr. Abdulkadir Diesow, said the following in an interview upon returning home to Somalia: “In Somalia, we have no record of the civil war, no testimonial for living society, we’re not passing on what has happened to the younger generations. The media can play an important role in that – they are educators of society. It’s like a wound that needs healing, and journalists can help heal the wound”.
The future of the network is bright. There are already plans being made for future collaboration on academic endeavours, and joint projects going forward. The Ethiopian participant Dr. Getachew Tilahun, wrote the following in a Facebook post as a testament to this: “They [Somali and Rwandan colleagues] are full of energy and are enthusiastic about collaboration of East African journalism schools. We the three – Ethiopian, Somali, and Rwandan journalism schools – have exchanged views on curricula development, staff exchange, collaboration, and joint research projects.” Such signs are positive indicators on the potential of this network going forward, and it’s now up to Fojo to support the consolidation of the network so that our partners can harvest the benefits that might blossom from it. To this purpose, a next learning tour is already being planned for the spring of 2023, this time in Ethiopia.
List of participating universities:
– East African University Rwanda (EAUR)
– Mount Kenya University Rwanda (MKUR)
– Institut Catholique de Kabgayi (ICK)
– University of Rwanda: School of Journalism and Communication (SJC)
– Addis Ababa University
– Bahar Dar University
– Jimma University
– Hawassa University
– Somalia National University