The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), in partnership with the Fojo Media Institute (Linnaeus University, Sweden), has conducted a mapping study of journalism training centres in sub-Saharan Africa.
The study’s report was launched on 9 December 2020 through a Webinar, which was attended by several journalism academics from the continent.
Conducted by Wits academic, Alan Finlay, the mapping covered 10 countries, namely Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. Finlay said the purpose of the mapping was to “try to identify trends in journalism education and training in sub-Saharan Africa, challenges and areas of creativity and teaching, and what we called ‘centres responding to a changing environment’”.
The mapping went beyond traditional institutions such as universities, schools, colleges and institutes, to include journalism training initiatives in the non-profit sector, as well as those closely aligned to the commercial media, said Finlay.
According to Finlay, the last mapping study of journalism training centres across the continent appears to have been conducted over 10 years ago by Unesco, “although country-specific studies have subsequently emerged”.
The study found, among others, that the continent’s colonial history continued to play a role in journalism training, shaping course content and networks. A good command of English, in particular, was regarded as synonymous with being a good academic. One academic interviewee, who took part in the study, told Finlay: “If you want to be a top academic, you must speak English, because then you will receive the best recognition from the global research community.”
African languages remained marginalised in journalism training on the continent, despite the fact that many journalists reported in African languages – for example on radio in countries such as Ghana or South Africa, argued Finlay. “The linguistic and cultural divide in Africa remains an important frame in which to understand the current status of journalism training and education on the continent and the training and education networks that have emerged, Finlay said.
On the other hand, universities from some Francophone countries tended to look to France-based institutions for expertise, instead of their counterparts on the continent.
The same happened with Lusophone countries that looked to Portugal and Brazil for collaborations on lecturer and student exchanges. To counter this, emerging investigative journalism networks in West Africa were making a conscious attempt to offer a multilingual environment for the capacity building of journalists in the region, The study found.
The study also found that several institutions had already been experimenting with e-learning prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some offered blended learning or completely online modules. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has forced several centres to consider alternatives offered by online teaching and learning. Several centres are dealing with technology, funding and several other challenges in implementing online teaching and learning, the study found.
The study creates a knowledge base on various aspects of journalism training on the continent. Finlay said while the “general observations made are necessarily limited by the scope of the research, it is hoped that this study goes some way towards filling a gap in understanding and awareness that may have emerged over the past decade”.
The launch took the form of a panel discussion, which was chaired by Prof Franz Kruger from the University of the Witwatersrand and comprised Finlay, Prof Monica Chibita from the Uganda Christian University, Roukaya Kasenally from the University of Mauritius and Adedej Adenkule from Nigeria’s Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.
Kasenally called for bigger training institutions to champion training in African journalism, away from colonial methods. In this regard, there was a call to encourage training that would enable journalists to work in African languages. Journalism training centres in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya should be used to develop best practice and to develop African-based curriculum, urged Kasenally.
It was suggested that online learning offered possibilities for cross-country teaching and learning as well as the possibility of extending training to more students. Online learning enabled students to realise self-learning and had a positive impact on economies of scale in that it made it possible to teach larger numbers of students, Kasenally argued.
Kasenally urged universities to explore short-courses training, saying it was useful in revenue generation and allowed for ongoing training for working journalists. Kruger said short-courses helped create a link between universities and the media industry.
Chibita urged universities to share experiences, instead of operating as competitors. “There is no need for silos,” she added.
The panel agreed that it was necessary to build support in journalism training in sub-Saharan, networking and better communication.
It was suggested that more studies needed to be conducted, prioritising teaching in indigenous languages, online learning and media freedom training.
The study is available from Mapping-Africa-Training-Centres-V6_09122020.pdf (journalism.co.za).