By Elham Mehammed
Staff from nine university journalism schools in Ethiopia, Somalia and Rwanda participated in an academic journalism education exchange programme in Ethiopia between 5 and 9 June this year.
The weeklong academic exchange was organised by the Fojo Media Institute and hosted by the Fojo-IMS Ethiopia media programme.
The exchange built on the successful first academic exchange programme held in Rwanda in November last year. The two exchanges have included a core group consisting of representatives from four Ethiopian universities, four Rwandan universities, and one Somali university. For the first two days of this visit, the core team was also joined by students and educators from eight other Ethiopian universities to take part in the networking and experience sharing.
Visiting Addis Ababa and Hawassa
On the first day of the exchange, the delegation met with the Reporter newspaper, the oldest print media in Ethiopia. The owner and the team discussed the quality of the journalism graduates and challenges of media professionalism in Ethiopia and the region.
After the visit to the Reporter, the delegation went to visit the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, EBC, the oldest public media house in Ethiopia, in their newly built media complex near Shegole, north of Addis Ababa.
According to The EBC English department editor in chief, the new complex is hoped to facilitate and ease the journalists’ task by having a one stop shop news production with well equipped studio. The facility also aims to accommodate a journalism trainings centre so that they can strengthen the capacity of their staff to produce quality public interest content. Discussions on how the training centre could contribute to academic journalism education followed. This led into a deeper discussion on how media outlets and journalism schools should help each other to fill the gap between classroom and newsroom.
While in Addis Ababa, the delegation spent a full day at Addis Ababa University’s school of journalism and communication. AAU hosted a panel discussion on “the role of journalism education in shaping the journalism practice” that featured educators from the three countries as well as Ethiopian students. They discussed the need for journalism education to provide experiences that simulate the real world of journalism practice.
This is something that is lacking in the current curricula as Bethel Tibeb, Addis Ababa university graduate programme student, said during the discussion. She said students don’t have the experience in the actual media set up. It was agreed that in order for curricula to be effective, they have to be constructed also with the needs of the media industry in mind.
In Hawassa, the academic exchange delegations met with South Television and Radio management and staff as well as Sidama Media Network team. There were warm discussions on the quality of their public interest journalism content and the capacity of journalism practitioners.
Towards the end of the week the educators held thorough internal discussions on the quality of journalism education including experience sharing on some takeaways from the past week. During these final sessions they designed future collaborations opportunities on how to strengthen cooperation between their universities.
Two key outcomes of the week were, first, the agreement to establish a shared platform where educators from the three countries could co-work on research proposals, guest lecture programmes, and other academic endeavours aimed at filling the gap between classroom and newsroom. Second, was the promise made by delegates from Rwanda and Somalia to found educator networks, similar to the one in Ethiopia, to further collaboration between and improve journalism education in their countries. The visitors said that it was a valuable visit.
The participating universities were:
- Ethiopia: Addis Ababa University, Bahir Dar University, Jimma University, and Hawassa University;
- Rwanda: East African University Rwanda, Mount Kigali University, Institut Catholique de Kabgayi, and University of Rwanda;
- Somalia: Somali National University
Voices from the Visit
According to Desalegn Bekele, Journalism Educator, Bule Hora University: “Exchange programmes are effective ways of opening the doors to new education opportunities and can help build bridges of understanding among educators from the experiences of the Rwandan and Somali educators. However, this potential is not exploited to the full in our context and I am proud to be here and take some of the learnings, ways in improving our methodology back our schools.”
Edana Solomon, 4th year Journalism student from Jigjiga university said that: “I’m glad that I have been part of this academic exchange and open discussion with Journalism educators and media managers. I have a chance to network with different students in different universities in Ethiopia where we discussed some of our courses and Journalism educators from Somalia and Rwanda. I personally learned a lot; it was truly a good experience.”
Fojo-IMS media programme manager, Sofie Gullberg also said that “the underlying assumption is everyone will learn from each other. It is cross-university friendships, learning from each other’s teaching and learning contexts and practice.” She added that “We wanted students to have some benefits from this program, there is no change without involving the key actors and students are crucial for this academic exchange programme,” she said.