Training the Next Generation of High-Qualified Journalists - Foundation Office Uganda and South Sudan
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With a population reaching 40 million inhabitants whereby 70% are below the age of 30, Uganda is one of the youngest countries in the world. This leads to an influx of 7 million graduates entering the job market annually. Unfortunately, most of them are unable to find stable employment due to lack of professional skills and knowledge, as a World Bank study has shown in 2014. This is also the reality many journalism and communication students stumble upon. They are not sufficiently equipped and prepared with the relevant digital and journalistic skills, which are crucial in the diverse and globalized media scene that we are living in today. Technology is developing rapidly which is why new generations have to be adapted to this kind of change to use media as a powerful tool for social change.
While the media scene has significantly expanded and liberalized in Uganda since the 1990s, it is still lacking professionalism, diversity and objectivity. Mainly rooted in the educational system, students are not properly encouraged for critical thinking or taught with modern media skills but rather with a rigid and theoretical curriculum.
However, free and high-quality media is a fundamental pillar of democracy and must be installed as a strong institution to assure transparency, accountability and good governance. Therefore, the promotion of professional media and training of critical analyzing and filtering information in order to produce well-informed citizens is one of the key targets of the work of KAS in Uganda. The Next – Gen Journalist Fellowship Program aims at training students to become experts in professional journalism by taking them through the diverse sphere of media, providing important journalistic skills and broaden the horizon of how media is seen in Uganda.
The very first fellowship training combined practical report assignments with theoretical skills sessions about understanding the key instruments of journalism and its role and power in society. Fellows received a strong overall picture of the main objectives targeted by the fellowship program and KAS. Sessions were facilitated by professional journalists sharing experience and tips to create high-quality and objective journalism. Covering specific topics of media, they gave room to the fellows to ask questions in a private setting and to go more into detail. While media does not always imply positive pictures, the danger of fake news and a session about “media gone wrong” left a striking impression during the training: With an extraordinary speech, guest speaker Sheila Kawamara gave a sharp insight about her experience as a young journalist reporting for New Vision during the Rwandan genocide. “The media was grossly used to hoodwink the world, to tell half of the story and to condemn one group” as Sheila explained. Through sharing these honest examples, young journalists are engaged and promoted in critical story telling instead of self-censoring important facts to please the interest of governments or institutions.
Opening another chapter of the diverse sphere of journalism, Sarika Bansal, Editor in Chief of Bright Magazine took the fellows through a session about “Solutions Journalism” to understand its importance and practice. “Solutions journalism is the news type of journalism that young journalists need to adopt in order to create social change” as Sarika continued to introduce the first practical assignment of the workshop: in the coming months fellows will compose an article about a certain solution to a social challenge in Uganda. The best report will be published, which is a great motivation and empowerment for all fellows to show their talents and skills.
Besides a strong skills training, the fellowship program emphasizes on strengthening the presence of female journalists in the male-dominated industry. Gender discrimination and a lack of mentorship of women still causes a stereotypical presentation of gender in Uganda. Within 4 days, fellows received broad knowledge in multimedia reporting, solutions-, developing- and investigative journalism with an intense focus on gender-sensitive reporting.
After finishing the first training of the fellowship program, fellows deeply expressed the importance of providing such possibilities to future journalists to learn and gain experience. Through receiving the skills and power to tell their own stories about Uganda, the next generation of high-qualified journalists will change the one-dimensional portrayal of Africa that was created and told by outsiders and still dominates in the media.
The Next – Gen Journalist Fellowship Program specifically targets this category of young and motivated journalism students, who want to provide the world with professional journalism and change the narrative of Uganda and Africa as a whole with their stories.
Report compiled by Klara Giesler