By: Kemiso Wessie-
Always learning – that’s Mauritian Christina Chan-Meetoo, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Mauritius (UoM), who has launched no less than two honours degrees, in Journalism and in Communication Studies, at UOM. At UoM since 1999, her areas of interest include cultural studies, film theory, journalism and new media with a particular focus on press freedom, media regulation, and gender-sensitive reporting.
When Christina finished secondary school, she wanted to be a secondary school French language and literature teacher or a translator. At first she didn’t want to be a journalism educator, she thought journalists leant as they went along (which is true for many journalists). But when she won a national scholarship after being ranked 2nd in the country she had to choose a field of study that was a priority for the government. She chose journalism and communication: “It sparked my interest and I chose it. I do not regret the choice,” she says. She went on to study at the Université de la Réunion on the French island of Réunion then her postgraduate degree at the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 in the city of Lyon, France.
She returned to Mauritius but there were not many jobs at the time and she would apply for any vacancies, working briefly in communication and events management. She then applied to work at the university, Christina notes that she enjoys learning and was excited “because to be able to teach, you have to be able to learn continuously.” Although she is a well-known journalist with years of expertise, she does not see herself as a full expert and “always needs to carry on learning”.
Christina believes that the fundamentals of journalism should remain the same even during a time of changing values and ethics. What could become a challenge is when there are new tools for disseminating and consuming information, for instance people don’t exactly consume news intentionally anymore and it is sometimes accidental while scrolling through Twitter or viewing WhatsApp statuses.
“It becomes much more challenging because sometimes there is a mixing of different sources, professional news sources, non-professionals, news sources, citizen journalists, people who just want to produce and share information which they think is reliable, but which might not be,” Chan-Meetoo explains.
There are also those who create and disseminate disinformation. All of this in combination could create a difficult news landscape for audiences to make sense of. She is adamant that as journalism educators, it is necessary to teach journalism ethics and inculcate this notion that journalism itself needs to be more transparent on its methodology..
Christina teaches courses in media and ethics, broadcast and digital reporting, data-driven journalism and investigative journalism. Christina’s students won 1st and 2nd prizes for the African Fact Checking Award, organized by AfricaCheck in 2022.
Some of the courses she teaches do require a more traditional lecture approach whereas others are more practical, she believes in “learning by doing” which gives dimension to the value of learning. Christina organizes her students into teams and each take on real newsroom roles to manage teamwork, deadlines and challenge each other. “I want them to act as if they’re in a professional setting, that they’re working in a real life situation,” she says.
Students do critical analysis on assignments, and have an opportunity to correct and resubmit. Christine says this encourages students to compete against themselves and improve their work, seeing improvements by the end of a semester.. She also adds that she enjoys being challenged in the classroom which can lead to additional discussion.
Christina notes the new generation of students are eager to learn about the Mauritian Creole language. In 2022 the University of Mauritius introduced a module called Written Skills in Creole, she adds that students want to give more value to their own language, they see that a lot of institutions and companies are using Creole more.
The senior lecturer also enjoys watching movies she randomly selects on Netflix sometimes in languages she doesn’t understand: “it’s something different.” However, she explains, you are able to see the commonalities in terms of the cinematic language, for instance the use of camera shots, angles and editing. Although she does like films that could tend to challenge classical narrative styles.
Christina and her husband Avinash, who is the current Head of the Accelerator Lab for UNDP Mauritius and Seychelles, have been married for 23 years. They critically discuss their respective projects and “are always reflecting together on what can be done to improve our country and help our people become better versions of themselves,” said Chan-Meetoo. They also have two children, 20-year-old Anya and 18-year-old Kyan.