The Wits Centre for Journalism together with the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa are implementing a new UNESCO project, funded by the Google News Initiative, that seeks to strengthen journalism schools in Africa.
The project was officially launched during a session at a regional conference on the future of journalism education and practice in Eastern Africa, hosted by the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa and Maseno University in Kenya.
The gathering, which ran for 8-10 February 2023, reviewed the role of media educators in the context of opportunities as well as digital challenges and other threats to journalism in the region.
The new project will include regional consultations with journalism trainers and educators around Africa to develop of a set of criteria for ‘excellence’ for journalism education in the region. This will update an earlier initiative by UNESCO in 2007 which explored what excellence meant at that historical period.
During the project’s launch, Abraham Mulwo, Dean of School of Information Sciences at Moi University in Kenya highlighted: ‘We should find a way to harmonize how we teach journalism in Eastern Africa so that we set the minimum standards for journalism education in other disciplines such as law and engineering. I believe this UNESCO-Google initiative helps to achieve these standards across Africa.’
The project will entail five sub-regional discussions with trainers and educators on the continent. Journalism schools will then be invited to self-assess their education and training programmes based on these criteria, and to apply for a small grant to develop responses to gaps they may have identified.
‘A journalist should respond to the socio-economic, political and environmental needs of the society. We are working to create centers of excellence for journalism in Africa and the criteria to establish this should be consultative and unique to Africa’s journalism situation’, said Alan Finlay, appointed by the University of Witwatersrand to lead the process.
Through the small grants, the project will help 10 journalism schools to improve and update their networking, as well as their current curricula and training programmes. In turn, they should be better able respond to the major changes in their countries and region.
During the project, an estimated 100 schools will be exposed to new thinking and networking about what ‘excellence’ means for journalism schools in Africa today. In these ways, the project aims to improve the strength and sustainability of the journalism ecosystem in African countries, and to help build a “community of practice” amongst journalism teachers and students.
How you can get involved:
* Participate in the regional meetings. Online regional meetings for journalism educators and trainers will be held in each of the five regions in Africa (Southern Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and North Africa) in March and April.
* Complete the survey to help you identify gaps in your institution’s education programme.
* Apply later in the year for a small grant from UNESCO to kick-start a new activity in your institution or organisation (only institutions that have completed the online survey will be able to apply).
If you would like to learn more about the project or participate in any of the above activities, please contact Alan Finlay at Alan.Finlay@wits.ac.za.
Schedule of regional consultations:
East Africa: March 1
Southern Africa: March 15
Preliminary dates for remaining consultations:
West Africa: March 29
Central Africa: April 12
North Africa: April 26