By Zelalem Tesfaye and Fitih Alemu:
-Journalism educators from Ethiopia and Somalia visited Rwanda for an experience-sharing tour in early November 2022.
The group consisted of five delegates from four Ethiopian public universities under the framework of Ethiopian Journalism Educators’ Network (EJEN), together with four delegates from the Journalism School of Somalia National University and Fojo’s programme manager to Ethiopia. The tour was supported by Fojo Media Institute.
After arriving in Kigali on 5 November, the group was able to visit beauty spots as well as the impressive Kigali Genocide Museum where the visitors were able to learn the gloom and turmoil the country had gone through. Delegates wished all parties in conflict in many part of the world including Ethiopia could visit the memorial to learn its lessons.
On Monday, 7th November, the visit began in earnest with a visit to East African University of Rwanda. The day began with a tour of the campus, where delegates were impressed by the practical aspects of mass communication in the university. This was followed by a presentation on ‘’Journalism Education and its Development in Ethiopia’’ by Dr. Getachew Tilahun from Jimma University, Ethiopia. The visit to EAUR was finally concluded with general discussion about areas of mutual interest.
Vice Chancellor of EAUR, Professor Calixte Kabera praised the support of Fojo in bettering journalism education in the region and called for practical areas of connection such as staff exchange for selected trainings.
The same afternoon, the team headed to Mount Kenya University. The visit began with a campus tour, followed by a presentation on ‘’Media Polarization in Ethiopia during political transition; Ethnicity as a case’’ by Dr. Mulatu Alemayehu from Addis Ababa University, followed again by a discussion of possible collaboration.
On the following day, the group travelled south to Muhanga, 45km from Kigali, to visit the Institute Catholique De Kabgayi (ICK). After the customary campus tour, presentations of “Media and Gender Development in Ethiopia from the perspective of Hawassa University” and “Journalism Education and Gender: from BDU’s point of view” were delivered by Hiwot Yohannes from Hawassa University and Fitih Alemu from Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia respectively. Again, possible collaborations in the areas staff exchange and research undertakings were discussed.
The three universities visited are all supported by FOJO Media Institute and PAX PRESS under the framework of Rwanda Media Program.
On Wednesday 9th November, the team mingled at ‘Never Again Rwanda’ where delegates learnt about efforts taken in the healing process of Rwanda as a post conflict country. In the afternoon, the team attended the gender club activities of EAUR and MKU students, who collaborated for a presentation on why gender clubs are important and how they are bringing positive changes in the community’s attitudes: “It is not a competition! It is collaboration!” was the recurring call by Felix and Aisha, co-presenters from EAUR and MKU respectively.
On Thursday 10th November, a plenary meeting of all representatives from the various institutions was held, beginning with three presentations on “Journalism Education in Somalia” by Somalian colleagues. The presentations underlined the lack of journalism educators in the country.
A presentation followed on the “Ethiopian Journalism Educators’ Network, EJEN: Its progress, Importance and Implication in Professionalization of Journalism in the country” by Zelalem Tesfaye from Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia.
The day was finally closed with series of students presentations on an online magazine and other extra-curricular activities at EAUR, ICK and MKU.
Generally, the experience sharing was the most fruitful session for the group. It also paved a smooth way for J-schools in the region to collaborate and make concerted efforts to bring quality journalism education in the region.
As a takeaway, EJEN has undertaken to network journalism students from Ethiopia with their colleagues in Rwanda. Moreover, the EJEN team is also thinking and planning to host next experience sharing session among different J-schools in the region.
The Somali and Ethiopian teams met separately to discuss further ways to continue their friendship. As the Somali j-school only resumed functioning in 2017 after more than two decades of closure, the teams discussed ways of ongoing experience sharing, resource exchange and collaborative research. The team agreed that cultivating habits such as random information exchange and social media group interaction would be a good place to start.
The group agreed that widening regional connection while maintaining balance with international collaboration would bear fruits for better journalism education, thereby improving media and society for Africa.