By Enoch Sithole

The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Eswatini (Uneswa) is reviewing their journalism programme to make it focus more on journalism and media studies.

                 Dr Henri-Count Evans

Journalism and communication lecturer, Dr Henri-Count Evans, told Ajenda that the country’s newsrooms rarely employ journalism graduates, something he said needed to change if the quality of journalism in the country’s media was to improve. Most journalists in the country’s media learned journalism on the job, but this was changing as a few journalism graduates had been absorbed by some of the country’s leading newspapers.

Journalism graduates, he said, would generally find work in non-governmental organisations and corporate entities doing public relations, communication or marketing work. This is made easier by the fact that student learn marketing subjects such as advertising.

However, Swaziland News managing editor, Zweli Martin Dlamini, told Ajenda that the quality of journalism education in the country had declined, and “this could be attributed to government reluctance to support journalism. There are no clear internship programmes that seek to ensure that experienced journalists transfer skills to upcoming journalists”.

Dlamini said his newspaper had hired graduates from both Uneswa and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.

The numbers of students and graduates have been low, but they are growing, said Dr Evans. There were only five students in 2017/2018 academic year, while in 2022/2023 there are more than 50. He added that the financial support from the government contributed to the growth in the number of students.

Dlamini said journalism was “a continuous learning profession that, of course, requires consistent mentoring of skills. With the ever-changing world and lifestyles, journalists are expected to adapt to the new realities”.

He said that “in eSwatini journalism is not taken seriously, it is suppressed at political level and students are struggling to secure scholarships to do journalism. What I have observed is that some students are good in information gathering but struggle with storytelling or writing. Others are good writers but with no content. It’s rare to get a student with both skills”. 

Meanwhile, the journalism and mass communication department has just won Unesco’s grant to strengthen journalism education in Africa. Evans said the Unesco award of some $15 500,00 would enable them to “equip budding journalists with the skills to harness data in their storytelling”.  He said “participants will learn the ethics of accuracy, transparency, and privacy, and explore impactful data-driven stories”. 

The department developed a curriculum that covers data sourcing from public datasets and web scraping, data cleaning using tools like Excel, R, and Python, and practical data analysis techniques. “Through hands-on exercises, students will gain proficiency in analyzing datasets, drawing journalistic insights, and crafting compelling narratives,” he added.

Eswatini’s media landscape is dominated by state-owned organs, with a few privately owned newspapers and a television channel. Uneswa runs the country’s only community radio station.